You Make the Call # 5: “Worse than an infidel”

If you saw You Make the Call and came here expecting a quality post from my co-blogger Kevin Barney, I’m sorry to disappoint you.  He kindly allowed me to move in on a good thing.   

 You are the bishop of the Outer Suburbia 2nd ward, and your Sunday starts with a 6 ack emma PPI with the stake president.  Yes, you are aware that the ward’s home teaching numbers need to improve, and yes, you are aware that the ward’s fast offering fund is in the red.  Bishopric meeting and ward council run until church starts at 10.  You catch a breather at about 1:30, long enough to eat the granola bar and banana in your briefcase, and then you start in on the long afternoon and evening of interviews.You meet with struggling, unhappy couples whose temple marriage is going up in smoke, men who can’t stay away from porn, people who think false doctrine was taught in Primary last week and who want you to do something about it, people who can’t get along with the rest of the ward and who think it is the rest of the ward’s fault, and youth who want to know (on behalf of a friend, of course) the precise, technical definition of petting, and exactly where the line is that, if crossed, requires confession to the bishop.  All in all, it’s just another Sunday in paradise.

Your last appointment of the day is with Brother Jones and Sister Smith-Jones.  Although you are exhausted and your stomach is growling, you are genuinely happy to see them, but a glance at their faces tells you something is very wrong.  Bob and Mary both converted to the church within the last two years, and they met one another in the ward, fell in love and got married.  They were genuinely pleased when so many ward members came to their temple sealing, and they are expecting their first child within the month.  You have heard through the ward grapevine that two months after the baby is born, Mary plans to resume her lucrative consulting career and that Bob is planning to resign from his job as a lab technician and become a stay at home father. 

This week, they got a one-two punch.  First, the home teachers came.  Their lesson consisted of GA quotes stressing the importance of a man bringing home the bacon and providing for his family, including the one from priesthood meeting just last year where the president of the church quoted the verse from the New Testament which says that a man who does not provide for his family has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.  The next day, the Relief Society president paid a visit.  She and Sister Smith-Jones already had something of a history, going back to when it became clear that Mary intended to use a hyphenated last name after her marriage.  The RS president expressed herself freely about that, and also felt the need to speak up about the pantsuit Mary sometimes wears to church.  She came to their home with a copy of the proclamation, with all the good parts highlighted, and conducted a one-sided discussion about divinely ordained gender roles.  

Bob and Mary wonder what they have gotten themselves into.  Some of the things they heard this week are simply incredible to them, and they want to know from you, their bishop, if the arrangements they have planned for their family are really an offense to God and detrimental to their eternal progress.  They are sitting before you in your office, awaiting your inspired wisdom.  What do you say?

Questions for discussion:

1.  How do you advise them to proceed?
2.  Is the advice you give at variance with the advice a GA might give?
3.  Gordon B. Hinckley has observed that new converts are the lifeblood of the church, and that without them, the church would wither and die.  He has also spoken about the lesson he learned as a young man from pruning fruit trees in the orchard.  The newest wood produces the best fruit, and the old, dead wood must continually be cut away.  Do you think that idea has application here? 


  1. Like “Bro. Jones” and “Sister Smith-Jones” I, too, am a new convert (Aug 2005 with my whole family) and it is precisely the type of behavior mentioned above by members that gives me pause. I’m curious to see how folks respond to this.

  2. I knew of a bishop who was a stay-at-home dad while his surgeon wife brought home the bacon.

  3. As I did once before, I’m going to list three reactions I can imagine a priesthood leader could have:

    1) Dogmatic/orthodox–The Lord has spoken through his prophets, so get to it. If you don’t understand the reasoning behind this counsel, obey and pray for a testimony of it. “Your ways are not my ways, and your thoughts are not my thoughts . . .” etc.

    2) Jaded–The prophets have been teaching that for decades, and that counsel seems to be a relic of a 1950’s culture that may not be ideal (and is often not possible) in today’s society. Like so many other things, this church teaching has been modified and softened over time, and might be on its way out, so don’t worry about it.

    3) Post-jaded–Not everything that comes from the church leaders represents the literal words of God that are universally applicable to every soul that has ever lived or will ever live on the earth. But generally, their counsel has proven to be pretty good for the majority of church members at the time it was given. Since the church leaders have taught about this for so long, it is probably a pretty good ideal, and I suggest that you seriously consider it. However, in the end, this is a personal matter between your family and the Lord–if you feel comfortable proceeding as previously planned, then go for it.

    I would recommend something along the lines of #3.

  4. John Taber says:

    I would lean toward #3, but emphasize that it’s ultimately up to them how best to make that counsel fit. I’d also remind them that my direct province as bishop focuses on the things that would, say, keep them out of the temple. They’re meeting those (unless there’s something else that they haven’t brought up, of course.)

    About five and a half years ago, I found myself unemployed, living with my parents and a part of their ward. Or I thought it was – the bishop, elders’ quorum president (who insisted everyone in the ward call him “President _____”), and a few other leaders were newer and had personalities very much like the home teachers and Relief Society president you described.

    Here I was 29, single, trying to get my bearings (while holding a stake calling). While I was waiting for my recommend for the Nauvoo dedication, I bumped into said quorum president, who told me, “It’s a good thing YSA home evening is at your parents’. Maybe you can find a wife.” That had me a little charged up going into the bishop’s office. But the bishop’s counselor I met with, who I’d known for a long time, made the same point about temple recommend questions. That didn’t resolve all my problems with that ward – I left as soon as I could afford to – but I wasn’t going to forget that my salvation didn’t depend on what those individual members said.

  5. Its a hypothetical right?

    That the HT’s and the RS president came after recent converts so hard on issues like this does not ring true to me. Most people have more sense then that.

    I go with #3 from CE. Its general advice given to a general population but can be right for a few as so inspired. I personally believe in the advice for what its worth.

    I have a “sports” buddy in my ward who is good friends with me and my wife. He stays home right now and his wife works and from watching him I would comment that….

    They feel a little bit like they are on the outside of the social circles in the ward because of the different manner in which they are living day to day.

  6. I would tell Bro. Jones and Sis. Smith-Jones that an important part of integrating into the Church involves knowing when to brush off stuff that you don’t really care that much about, while trying to keep an eternal perspective, and encourage them to politely ignore the counsel of their home teachers and Relief Society pres.

    Then again, I’d never be bishop, so this hypothetical is preposterous.

  7. Speaking of social circles in the ward, that brings up another question I have…are all LDS women so cliquish? My wife works like I do so she isn’t available during the day for all of the Happy Homemaker-type stuff and Kiddo playdates that the stay-at-home moms do and I’ve noticed a certain frostiness in the way some of the sisters treat her.

    Sorry for the threadjack.

  8. I would tell them that the prophet’s counsel, the proclamation to the family, the scriptures, etc. all have implied exceptions. For example, a man who does not provide financially for his family does not deny the faith if he and his wife have mutually decided on a different arrangement.

  9. That the HT’s and the RS president came after recent converts so hard on issues like this does not ring true to me. Most people have more sense then that.

    Really? More than once I’ve seen new converts given a breaking-in period before people wonder why they don’t know every bit of doctrine and culture that comes along with being baptized. We actually had a new convert in our last ward change to a different ward because the Relief Society President told her people might think she was a lesbian because she was wearing pantsuits to church (the same pantsuits she wore while attending during her discussions).

    People like to pick at each other and show how much better they are than you, even in church.

  10. I would tell Brother Jones and Sister Smith-Jones that an important part of moving from convert to established member of the Church involves knowing when to brush off stuff that you don’t really care that much about, while trying to keep an eternal perspective, and encourage them to politely ignore the counsel of their home teachers and Relief Society pres.

    Then again, I’d never be bishop, so this hypothetical is silly.

  11. I don’t have the exact wording of the quote, but Neal Maxwell said once, “It does no violence to our understanding of the plan of salvation to believe that the Lord also has a plan for each individual”, or words to that end. I took it to mean that we really are supposed to respect the agency of individual members, and let them make decisions for themselves, as they feel inspired.

    My vote is # 3, followed up with a 5th Sunday lesson about agency, diversity, and that God is no respecter of persons, in the hopes of either reassuring Bro & Sis Smith-Jones, or stifling the HT & RS President in a kind and gentle manner.

  12. jjohnson,

    You and I have conversed for years in the blogs. Your ward always sounds so hard core on cultural issues when you post.

    I think in response to #6 that cliques are a fact of life and that LDS wards are no exception to this tendency amongst people.

    In my ward there is one “tight clique” which is dominated by several queen bee type sisters and another much looser clique of the other SAHM’s. The few working moms have a harder time fitting in because all of the informal activities of the majority of the women of our ward tend to happen during the day when the kids are in school.

    My wife falls into the 2nd clique. The queen bee clique is the cause of a lot of quiet angst amongst many of the sisters who do not belong to it.

    Sometimes it seems that I have been transported back to Middle School when I observe the two cliques.

  13. Josh Smith says:

    Dealing with the Nazi wing of the Mormon church is easy, you set the expectations of your righteousness so low that any faithful behavior is seen as reunion with flock.

    For example, you might try drinking a six pack of beer in the front yard, in a swimming suit. Set up a folding chair, place the beer in a conspicuous place, and enjoy yourself for a couple hours. You think people will bother you about home/work decisions after that?

    Bishop, if you read blogs, know that I have the utmost respect for you and the sacrifices you make on behalf of the ward. If you ever see me half naked drinking beer in a lawn chair, know that this is only a one time deal.

  14. Zoinks. Well, if I were the bishop, I’d tell them I personally don’t have a problem with their arrangement, but I would counsel them to take it to the Lord if they haven’t done so already.

    If I remember correctly, President Hinckley was asked about working mothers at his very first news conference as prophet, and his advice was “just do the best you can.” The church’s position on family planning is that it’s really no one’s business but the couple and the Lord. I don’t think one would be amiss in conflating these two statements.

    I like kevinf’s advice about a fifth-Sunday lesson obliquely addressing the issue. I’m guessing Bro. Jones and Sis. Smith-Jones’ experience is not unique in that ward.

  15. Well the scripture 1 Tim 5:8 really says

    8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

    Notice it says “ANY” not “man”, “husband”, or “father” meaning it is all inclusive of both men and women. We know that when the scriptures use all inclusive pronouns they use the mascaline form, however in our modern politically correct society it might read

    But if any provide not for his/her own, and specially for those of his/her own house, he/she hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

    I am also reminded of Proverbs 31:10-31 which speaks of the virtues of a entreprenurial women that serves and provides food, clothing and shelter for her family and husband.

    I think the important thing is that if at all possible (considering the cost of living today) there ought to be at least one parent (male or female) at home with the children caring for and teaching them.

    I hope this helps.


  16. Julie M. Smith says:

    I would tell them to get to the temple and find out what God wants for their family and then to have the courage to do it.

    I would remind them to respond charitably to people who are not clear about our doctrine of personal revelation.

    And then I’d have a talk with the RS President.

  17. Tell them that they need to decide what’s best for their family circumstance. Assure them that the HT and RS were out of line.

    Call an ward council meeting for the following Tuesday evening and set the leadership of the ward straight.

  18. As a Bishop, I have faced one or two similar situations, although with different facts. This is a no brainer. Tell them that that they should be perfectly comfortable ignoring the advice received from their home teachers and RS President, and that there is nothing in church doctrine to suggest that their choice of lifestyle is in any way contrary to God’s will. I would also explain that some of our leaders occasionally get over zealous in promoting their own views as gospel. They are well meaning, and we should try to be understanding and patient with those whose opinions are different from ours. However, all members answer to themselves and to God for their choices and they should proceed with my full respect and support in doing what they believe is right for their family.

    I would then look for a way to rein in the home teachers and RS President in just the right way. That will be more difficult, I think.

    I have no idea whether a GA would give different advice. I am sure that some would, and some would not.

    And no, I don’t think the analogy to pruning the orchard has any particular application here. This is not an issue of old and decrepit versus young and vibrant.

  19. We are in a pretty- ok, very – conservative ward that has a Temple within our ward boundaries- and while I may be out of the loop, I’m glad to say I have seen very little of this clique-ish behavior.

    As far as the Smith-Jones’ issues, holding onto converts is SO MUCH more important than small, cultural things like pantsuits, name choices or who is home with the children. If I were the bishop, I would have a chat with the RS pres and the HT- trying to privately and gently remind them of what is the true goal.

    I like the idea of a 5th Sunday lesson, hopefully after the private chat with the auxilary- so no one misses the message.

    As far as directly to the Smith-Jones’, reiterate the cultural aspects of Mormonism often get confuses with doctrine, reassure them they are loved and supported by the bishopric and that thier choices, taken before the Lord, are theirs to make.

    And for goodness sake- new home teachers, stat!

  20. I like Julie’s reply. I’d also talk to the HT coordinator.

  21. The first two thoughts that come to mind as a potential response to the couple are:

    -the Proclamation has never been presented to the church for sustaining/approval, and so it is not scripture.

    -the Proclamation speaks of “other circumstances” that allow for “individual adaptation”.

    Ultimately it’s a personal decision and I would follow up with them in several weeks to see what the Lord had revealed to them and how they were doing in living by that direction.

  22. Tell them that the New Testament also says it is good to be a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of God and that they should castrate the home teachers for such rank idiocy. Tell them you will also be castrating the RS president’s husband because in the church we believe that husbands should rule over their wives — when the wives go astray, the husbands must pay. Tell them that you are only joking and that they are free to discount people when they say crazy things.

  23. Lulubelle says:

    I’d talk to the HT and RS President and tell politely put them in their place.

    I’d tell the couple to not worry about what they were told, that this decision is a family decision and they are the ones to make the decisions that are best for their family and no one knows better what that is than them.

    As for pantsuits, again, I’d tell her that the important thing is that they come to church and not to worry about it. (by the way, I think appropriate pant suits are far nicer than a lot of what I see some women wearing to church.)

    And then, as a bishop, I’d worry about how to address the self-rightousness that seems endemic in the ward and how many other members have been offended. Not sure how I’d address it but that seems to be the real problem, not hyphenating a name, wearing a pantsuit, or having a female as the primary breadwinner.

  24. You and I have conversed for years in the blogs. Your ward always sounds so hard core on cultural issues when you post.

    It’s the joy of living in Davis County Utah. I didn’t realize how hard core my past few wards were on the Church’s culture until I found the bloggernacle. It was then that I realized every ward didn’t have people using EQ to proclaim the the divinity of George Bush or the evil of pantsuits.

    Feel free to drop in if you’re in the area, I love introducing out-of-towners to the Church in Northern Utah.

  25. Though to be fair, my current ward is wonderful, and isn’t anywhere near the last two we lived in.

  26. I thought that counsel about telling men to go get a job and support their families was aimed at the men who have no job and no job skills, don’t care that they have no job skills, and think their wives ought to get a job so they can stay home and surf the internet all day. Then when the wife gets home, he tells her that housework is “women’s work” and so she should do all of that too. The prophets words were so that a woman who *wants* to be the homemaker has some backup when she tells her husband that he ought to get a job rather than relying on her to earn all the money and do all the housework.

    Does the RS Pres not have anyone in her ward with a deadbeat husband and a wife working two minimum wage jobs while the house falls apart? If she’s worried about this arrangement, then she’s neglecting someone in the ward who really does need help.

  27. I think I feel closest to what Gary said (#17). He sounds just like my bishop. Assuming they have recommends I would add, if they still feel uncertain after all I advised, to fast and go to the temple, and ask God Himself if He is okay with their choice. Then I would reassure them that if they felt good about their arrangement then not to be concerned about it any longer.

  28. Playing Devils advocate for a moment.

    What happens if while praying about this or during the interview you as the bishop are strongly inspired that you should gently advise them to follow the SAHM ideal model? There is certainly more support for the SAHM model in the church then not.

    So they either leave thinking you are nuts and go inactive or they go back reconsider their decision and make a change. It could very well be that the Lord does want them to follow the SAHM model.

    I actually know a couple that went thru a very similar situation and ended up after a lot of angst going SAHM.


  29. Classic Ronan.

    Like some here, I feel that the real question is not so much how to deal with the couple — that they should be made to feel that their life choices are acceptable and not unrighteous goes without saying — but how to deal with the indefensible behavior of the imaginary RSP and HTs. Gladly, I’m inclined to believe that such absurdly inappropriate behavior is rather rare in the Church, but when it does rear its ugly head, I feel sorry for the Bishop yoked with putting a stop to it.

  30. bbell: I can’t say for sure what I would do in the circumstances you posit, but I am inclined to believe that God does not need a middle man like me to advise them on what decision they should make on matters relating their own family. Frankly, I don’t think it is any of my business, and I don’t know why God would give me inspiration for their family that he is not giving to them directly.

  31. Mark Brown says:

    Here’s the question I was aiming at:

    Does the church teach that males and females have eternal roles, and that the role for a male is provider/presider? While I agree with most of you, that this is the couple’s decision to prayerfully make, I’m surprised we haven’t acknowledged the tension that our advice produces with what most of us would agree is an official teaching.

    bbell has hinted at it, in terms of social acceptance, but so far nobody has addressed the idea of eternal roles.

    This was a real occurrence, by the way, with just enough details changed to obscure the identity of the Smith-Jones family. Two months after the baby was born, Sister Smith-Jones A)went back to work, and B)was called as the new RS president. Eighteen months later, she was released and her husband was called to be bishop of the ward.

  32. Julie M. Smith says:

    Re #27:

    Then I would say, “I feel inspired to tell you X and now you should pray for confirmation of X before you act. Then you will be in a position to act not on *my* inspiration but on *yours.*”

    Mark, I do think that the “default setting” is an employed husband and a SAHM but I *know* that some people are inspired otherwise.

  33. Julie, maybe it’s the magic of Tuesday but I am just loving your comments today.

  34. Kevin Barney says:

    I’m probably closer to CE’s no. 2 jaded position; maybe I’m a 2.3. If they haven’t prayed about it, they should. But I would also explain that it’s very possible that God just doesn’t care which one of them works, so if they don’t get an answer they should follow their own best judgment.

    I agree with Tracy that as a missionary oriented church we can’t afford to be pissing away our new members like this for such silly reasons.

    With the couple, I would use this as a lesson in how to survive and thrive in the Church long-term. There are several axes. One is temporal; the Church used to be more proscriptive about this kind of thing, but there is a clear trend to a more laissez-faire, it’s between the couple and the Lord approach. But you’re still going to get occasional blowback from the older style.

    Another axis is the continuum between doctrine and culture. They need to understand that many, perhaps most, Saints see the Leave It To Beaver gender roles pattern as eternal dogma, whereas others–including me, your friendly neighborhood bishop–see it as more cultural in nature.

    Another axis to be aware of is the capacity to distinguish broad, general counsel given over a pulpit in General Conference and particulars in any given situation. (Elder Oaks has talked about this.)

    If they can learn from this experience to let the comments of the HTers and RS president roll off their backs and not damage their relationship with the Church, then there is a very good chance that they will survive for the long haul.

  35. Josh Smith says:

    Julie, #31 assumes that the priesthood leader can receive revelation on such a matter. I don’t think he can. I tend to agree with Gary (29)–God does not need a middleman in such matters.

  36. Mark Brown says:

    Julie, I’m fascinated, and quite pleased, really, that we are talking about these issues in terms of default settings and cultural socialization instead of manifestations of God’s eternal and unchanging will. Or am I misreading you?

    What are the chances that any of us could have a conversation like this in our home wards?

  37. RE: Mark (#30)–

    Yes the church does teach that males and females have eternal roles. The SAHM counsel seems to be an outgrowth of that teaching. But to be frank, I think there is some truth to my suggested “jaded” response in post #3: SAHM counsel may partly be a relic of the June Cleaver days of the 1950s (if ever those days really existed outside of television).

    So there seems to be a load of tension between church teaching and life’s realities in this matter. Realities of life present messier situations to most people.

    Many of our “ideal” teachings have to be balanced by the demands of an imperfect world. We teach that we should be perfectly honest, but we must not hurt others’ feelings with our honesty. We should spend our lives serving the church and our neighbors, but we must not neglect our own families while doing so. We should give our money to the poor, but we must not let our own children go hungry or unclothed. We should be kind and considerate to everyone we meet, but we must watch out for ourselves and not let others take advantage of us or our families.

    Elder Monson once said something to the effect that ideals are like the stars–we may never reach them, but they can guide our path. Elder Packer has said that we publicly preach the rules, and privately minister the exceptions.

    I like these sentiments, but I wish the church would address the balancing act a little more directly. I fear that too many members feel unnecessary guilt for failing to meet standards that are really just “ideals.”

    I suspect that some GAs wouldn’t consider the SAHM counsel to be merely an ideal. But other GAs (President Hinckley included) seem to recognize that people can only do their best under less-than-ideal circumstances.

    If we really want the gospel to go out to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, then we need to leave a lot of room in the church for individuals and families that may not fit the ideal mold.

  38. #30 The Proclamation definitely teaches about the eternal nature of gender and states what those roles should be. It attempts to be very black and white. To me, real life is never this ideal or this black and white. None of the previous proclamations are part of the standard works, and there must be a reason for this. If I recall, other proclamations were on such topics as the economy and evolution.

  39. Kevin (#33)–

    I have to admit that I’m naturally inclined towards the “jaded” position too, on this and many other topics. But I aspire to a more constructive “post-jaded” attitude whenever possible. The dialogue in the BCC community helps push me towards that better place (like moving up through Fowler’s stages of faith development).

  40. “None of the previous proclamations are part of the standard works,”

    Unless I missed something, neither is this one. Just checked and I didn’t see it on the scriptures page.

  41. Thomas Parkin says:

    re: Eternal Roles.

    We know virtually nothing about the relationship between Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother – excpet that we can rightly assume that it is based on love, respect, perfect understanding, friendship and mutuality, all writ very large. There is a tendancy to project our own cultural and generational perspective on to that lack of information. So that at one time Heavenly Mother(s) was (were) seen as eternally pregnant, while Heavenly Father went about making worlds and taking care of them. Now we see that relationship more in terms of the freindly and equal partnership that is our ideal of love. Who knows but that there is some information that will also set our picture of that relationship on its head: seeing that we are we are, in our own time and way, blinkered and prejudiced towards are own views, like people always are.

    I agree with bbell that it is tough to say _precisely because_ we cannot say where an individual stands in their life, and that the Bishop may be inspired differently in how he councils this family compared to another one. There are, however, things that we are certain or NOT individual, and apply universally. Right? Some are faith in Jesus, repentence, making and keeping covenants, receiving the Holy Ghost with all that entails and enduring to the end. Those are the things I would tend to stress – preceisely because they are always neccesary. How exactly they are applied to any individual at any given time might not look exactly the same – but the principles themselves always need to be active in anyone’s life, or we will fail to grow.

    So, I might, very hypothetically, say something like this. “I’m not really concerned about how you go about taking care of the needs of your family, as long as you are honest and genuinely trying do the best possible thing. But I do very much care that nothing, including the views of other of our brothers and sisters in this ward, is interfering in your desire to become more like Jesus. If we are on that path, we will eventually come to see eye to eye. If I am wrong about something, I will eventually come to see it. If you are wrong, then eventually you will come to see it. And we will be able to let that thing go. In the meantime, let’s just do our best.”


  42. Gilgamesh says:

    My only questions is this –

    Since when is being a stay-at-home dad not providing for a family?

  43. Last Lemming says:

    Another axis to be aware of is the capacity to distinguish broad, general counsel given over a pulpit in General Conference and particulars in any given situation. (Elder Oaks has talked about this.)

    Speaking of which, here is an excerpt of what Elder Oaks said, which I think should be printed on cards and handed out by bishops, stake presidents, and general authorities as appropriate:

    As a General Authority, I have the responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions. There are exceptions to some rules. For example, we believe the commandment is not violated by killing pursuant to a lawful order in an armed conflict. But don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord.

    On a different note, the most recent convert in out ward got up in testimony meeting before she was baptized and announced that she was going to continue wearing pantsuits after her baptism and that the rest of us would just have to deal with it.

  44. Nick Literski says:

    Does the church teach that males and females have eternal roles, and that the role for a male is provider/presider? . . . I’m surprised we haven’t acknowledged the tension that our advice produces with what most of us would agree is an official teaching.

    Okay, so “As man is, God once was” is no longer “an official teaching,” but “keep ‘dem wimmen at home, cookin’ and cleanin’ where dey belong” is? If so (and I’m afraid you’re right that it is), this is definitely not the LDS church I joined in 1979.

  45. Gilgamesh (#41) said:

    Since when is being a stay-at-home dad not providing for a family?

    Perfect! It’s surprising how easy it is to debate details of a situation without recognizing a faulty underlying assumption.

    Unfortunately, however, I don’t think that this is what the bretheren had in mind when they wrote the family proclaimation. It’s nice to find a new interpretation that makes difficult counsel less-difficult, but I doubt that interpretation was intended in the original.

  46. Julie M. Smith says:

    Steve: huh. Go figure.

    Re #34:

    I think it unlikely but not impossible that a bishop would receive inspiration for a couple in this situation. I wouldn’t be comfortable saying that a bishop’s stewardship absolutely could *not* include inspiration in a case such as this.

    Mark, it would be silly to talk about God’s unchanging will when most humans throughout history weren’t living under our post-industrial model, wouldn’t it? It would be equally silly to think that there would be no exceptions to the current default setting on parental roles when we have canonized exception to “thou shalt not kill”, no? Exceptions don’t negate the general rule, but they do exist.

  47. jjohnsen, # 23,

    I lived in Kaysville for 14 years, so I know of what you speak. I lived in 5 wards and two stakes without moving. Many good things to like, but many weird things as well.

    Ronan, many times as bishop I wish I could have spoken as boldly as that. Only did it a few times. Chalk it up to what Kevin Barney was talking about in his shut up at church post the other day.

  48. Fly_on_the_wall says:

    Lets put a little twist to the original story. What if the RS pres and HT both tell the Bishop that they had fasted and prayed about what they were going to say to the couple. And they both claimed they received spiritual confirmation that they were right in what they did. Now what?

  49. They don’t get to override the married couple. Period. Stewardship does entitle one to be the middleman for God.

  50. Stephanie says:

    As for pantsuits, again, I’d tell her that the important thing is that they come to church and not to worry about it. (by the way, I think appropriate pant suits are far nicer than a lot of what I see some women wearing to church.)

    One day I went to the temple with my parents. I guess my mother wasn’t paying any attention when I walked from my door to her car, because she didn’t notice I was wearing pants. When she did realize, an hour into the drive, she was scandalized. She was worried they wouldn’t let me in. They were very nice pants paired with very nice heels and I didn’t see a problem. Of course when we got there I was admitted with no problem, save a few scandalized glances from female temple workers. On our way out of the temple, I saw a woman entering wearing a sloppy denim skirt, a plaid shirt (not fitted or anything) and clogs. And I’m sure no one looked twice at her.

    Moving on to the main topic, I would assume that the only appropriate thing to say to such a couple would be that they should prayerfully asked the Lord what he would have them do, and that they should go from there. Of course I am sure there are hundreds of bishops out there who would back up what the ridiculous RS President and HTs said. Sadly.

  51. Left Field says:

    Contrary to the often-repeated claim, the proclamation never uses the word role. Rather, it speaks of responsibilities. I assume that if they had meant role, they would have said role, and I don’t see any reason to take the plain words of the proclamation and improve on them. Furthermore, it directs that fathers and mothers are to share those responsibilites as “equal partners.” If the parents are seeing to it that the family is protected, provided for, and nourished, and if they seek to be equal partners in this endevour, then they are meeting their responsibilites regardless of how they divide the roles.

  52. Stephanie,

    In all my years in the church, and knowing many bishops, I’ve only known one that would have reacted that way. Although both my brother, and my wife’s sister, have had crazy bishops that way.

    My wife’s sister told hers to take a hike (issues about where priesthood authority lay after her husband died unexpectedly), and when he persisted, she went to the SP who told the bishop to take a hike.

  53. On a different note, the most recent convert in out ward got up in testimony meeting before she was baptized and announced that she was going to continue wearing pantsuits after her baptism and that the rest of us would just have to deal with it.

    Awesome! : )

  54. I do think its possible for a Bishop or SP to receive prayerful inspiration in cooperation with the couple while fulfilling his role as a Bishop. Lets not limit God to work thru other people. Plus why have Bishops at all if you listen to some of the comments above. Indeed the same could be said of P blessings and blessing of comfort where advice is often given while under the influence of the spirit

    By going to the Bishop with their concerns and asking for advice this couple indeed does open themselves up to the Bishop receiving inspiration on the matter.

  55. Stephanie says:

    Kevin, that’s good to hear. And that portion of my comment was a bit hasty.

  56. I have no idea what my etrnal male-ness means, but I’m pretty sure ‘bringin’ home the bacon’ isn’t an essential part of it.

    Wouldn’t it be vanity and pride for a man to insist on working if his wife could earn more money for less work through conditions over which neither of them have any control?

  57. Stephanie,

    They still need to be reminded that they are human, and not perfect. Most, though, are well aware of their imperfections, and agonize over things they may have said or done.

    As long as they are aware of their imperfections, they’ll normally do fine.

  58. Mark Brown says:

    Norbert, right on.

    If being male means that I’m gonna be punching a clock, toting a barge, and lifting a bale for all eternity in the CK, I ready for whatever the smooth people do instead.

  59. Nick Literski says:

    Plus why have Bishops at all if you listen to some of the comments above.

    So, you’re asking why we should have bishops at all, if we don’t choose to obey them in all things?

    One might just as well ask why we should have brains at all, if we choose to have bishops make our decisions for us.

  60. Josh Smith says:

    Maybe the bishop could receive revelation that the husband should go to work outside the home and the wife should be a homemaker. After all, this couple went to the bishop seeking answers (53); if they’re asking, why wouldn’t (or couldn’t) God answer their petition through a loving bishop?

    Because we are on this earth to exercise our agency in a world of uncertainty. Most people are capable of making principled, faithful decisions regarding how they provide for their family. To have someone step in (no matter how well-intentioned) and claim revelation on a matter of family governance smacks of overbearance.

    Good heavens I’ve become a skeptical. But seriously, somebody draw a distinction between a bishop’s revelation on personal matters and tarrot cards.

  61. Josh Smith says:

    You know what. Forget the whole bishop-revelation/tarot card thing. Somebody just direct me to a blog with more faithful participants. I need to talk about what an incredible individual my bishop is.

  62. Eric Russell says:

    Defaults and exceptions, definitely.

    And given that the SAHD taboo seems to be very much in women’s best interest, I think anyone with the least bit of feminist inclinations would be fearful of losing it.

  63. Lets put a little twist to the original story. What if the RS pres and HT both tell the Bishop that they had fasted and prayed about what they were going to say to the couple. And they both claimed they received spiritual confirmation that they were right in what they did. Now what?

    Their inspiration, in this case, was only a catalyst for teaching the new converts a valuable lession — that they need not listen to and obey the philosophies of men masquerading as doctrine, even when promulgated by those putatively positioned to receive inspiration on their behalf.

    Plus that whole “you don’t need the church to tell you how to manage your family affairs if you have an unmediated relationship with Heavenly Father” thing.

  64. Josh, isn’t it possible that under certain circumstances, where I’ve been indulging in certain behaviors or am under certain overwhelming pressures, a third party may be able to receive and interpret a revelation more reliably and less subjectively than I might?

  65. A thought experiment:

    How might things have gone differently if Brian Davis Mitchell had consulted with his bishop about his purported “revelations”?

  66. Josh Smith, # 60.

    Anecdotal Evidence Alert: Most bishops I have known are extremely loath to get involved in the kinds of personal details being discussed here.

    However, since the couple did come to him and ask a question, I think he is entitled to some spiritual help in answering that question, even if the answer is “you know, the Lord really wants you to work this out on your own”. But I also would be suspect of a bishop calling me in to tell me he was receiving inspiration about personal family matters. On the other hand, to call my wife and I in, and say “You’ve been on my mind a lot recently. Is everything okay?” would be totally appropriate.

    And speaking of incredible bishops, my current bishop and the one preceding him are both incredible. The one before that, I have reservations about, as I know him way too well, having walked in his shoes for some 50+ years. :)

    As to a more faithful blog, I’ve been casting my tarot cards, but I’m not getting anywhere.

  67. Josh Smith says:

    JimD, you’re right. I see how much my bishop cares about people, how incredibly generous he is with his time and resources. He could probably receive revelation on SAHM issues.

    However, another part of me says such personal matters are none of the bishop’s d*mn business. That any effort to attach the term revelation to his own personal opinions looks like an abuse of power (and looks like a bit of good ol’ mysticism).

    Maybe we aren’t working from a clear definition of revelation.

  68. Josh,

    I really didn’t mean to come off as snarky in my prvious post, or maybe just a little.

    When you combine the terms “revelation” and “personal opinion”, you hit on a bishop’s worst nightmare. Some times, you know exactly what you are supposed to do, and who to call to positions, and other times you really do feel like the heavens are brass. I chalk that up to sometimes things are really important, and you need to pay attention. Other times, you have no clue, and really are left to your own devices.

    The question here is not about the bishop receiving a totally out of the blue revelation for a family in his ward, but what to do when they come and ask him for help. Under those circumstances, bishops do count on getting some help from the spirit, or else after a day like Mark has described, they’d toss in the towel. Who needs that kind of aggravation, after all?

    I’d be wary when the bishop makes an unsolicited pronouncement of revelation for me, but I know that I am also entitled to confirmation of that, so I could choose to ignore it or pay heed, depending on my circumstances.

    But if I ask him a question? It’s because I hope he IS receiving promptings.

  69. errr, “previous”, not prvious. I missed the revelation on that one.

  70. Haven’t read all responses yet, but I agree 100% with kevinf’s first comment – and Ronan’s #21 is abso-freaking-lutely awesome.

  71. Josh Smith says:

    Thanks. I felt the spirit as I read your comments. Surely the bishops of this church receive guidance and counsel from God in carrying out the tremendous burden on their shoulders.

    Threadjack: Obedience to hierarchical authority has been on my mind a lot lately. Last night I watched a segment of documentary on Nazi Germany by BBC–I strongly recommend it. The producers found average Germans who participated in various ways in the Nazi’s ethnic cleansing and asked them about their participation: some had sold food at outrageous prices to imprisoned Jews, some had served as interpreters to remove Poles from their homes, some had snitched out neighbors. Previously I’d always thought that I could never have been a part of such an operation as Nazi Germany, but these people were not cruel people. The documentary does an incredible job of revealing the perpetrators humanity and one cannot help but turn the question inward–what would I have done under similar circumstances?

    Now the Mormon Church is not Nazi Germany, but our ideas of stewardship, obedience, and hierarchical revelation raise some moral issues that I’m still working out. Again, part of me believes that bishops are entitled to revelation to guide the flock, and part of me reviles at the idea of being a sheep.

  72. I would teach them correct principles (that it is between them and the Lord) and let them govern themselves. Then I would have a very loving but direct talk with the RS President and the appropriate PH leader – with a return and report charge for the next week on their apology to the couple. I would follow it up by having myself or one of my counselors talk in Sacrament Meeting ASAP on “Judge not, that ye be not judged” – and construct a relevant 5th Sunday combined lesson.

    Some issues are too important not to address right at the outset, and this is one of them. (BTW, as is the original post, my reaction is not completely hypothetical.)

  73. Since my Relief Society President is (a) loved and admired by all and (b) a single professional woman and mother of two wonderful children, I suspect that this wouldn’t have quite the same script in my ward.

  74. A few months ago, our ward changed from a nice, but ineffective RS president to a hard-charging, bull in a china shop RS president. She seems to think she is Dr Laura or Dr Phil, whose responsibility is to chew out people to whom life has dealt a less-than-ideal hand for not playing with a royal flush.

    The new RS has decided that it is her responsibility to reform my wife, to the point that every time she comes over, my wife is left in tears. My wife had foot surgery recently, and her surgeon told her not to put any weight on it for 12 weeks. During the past couple of months (we aren’t at the 12 week mark yet), the RS president has chewed my wife out for not getting up and keeping the house spotless. I’ve gotta confess that yesterday, I used a bad word to describe her in the voice message I left on the bishop’s phone when I told him I didn’t want that RS president to set foot in my house again.

    I feel sorry for the poor man. Our bishop is a good man who is trying his best, but for some reason he just doesn’t get that his new RS president seems to go out of her way to offend sisters who don’t live up to her ideal.

    If I were the hypothetical bishop, I’d tell the couple to pray and follow their inspiration, and then I’d try to rein the HTs and RS president in.

  75. Priesthood leaders do receive inspiration and ofter can anticipate events unfolding in their respective units through the spirit’s guidance and discernment.

    However, it would be a stretch to wade into every member’s personal decision sphere with an instant solution where they aren’t required any thought or personal growth through their own decisions and actions.

    Look as Moses as an example of a priesthood leader overburdening himself with micro managing his flock. It didn’t work back then and it should be avoided today.

  76. Josh,

    I hope I don’t add to the threadjack, as I think it is salient to the discussion. As a culture, there is a real subtext of obedience to authority at play here, and as you read Mark’s post, you realize that people ask bishops or RS presidents a lot of otherwise personal questions because they perceive them as “authoritative sources”, hopefully closer to the sources of inspiration and spiritual influence than the rest of us.

    Sometimes I think it works the other way as well, and you can get caught up in having people come to you with questions, and overplay your hand. Either way, we are both culturally inclined to seek authoritative answers, and to want to give them. Otherwise, Mark’s whole scenario wouldn’t even play out. We know we’re not infallible, but sometimes, we really, really want infallibility.

  77. Mark Brown says:

    Just FYI –

    In my only-slightly-imaginary example, the couple didn’t come to the bishop to ask what they should do. They were simply asking for clarification as to what the official position of the church was, and to ask if the course of action they had already decided upon was incompatible with church membership.

    As far as the bishop being the advice-giver of the ward, I think kevinf has it just about right.

  78. #75 – Amen. The counsel we are given often appears to be (and sometimes is) paradoxical. It is human nature not just to exercise unrighteous dominion (which is one of the major subtexts of this thread) but also to put others in a situation where we are encouraging them to do so – by asking them to make decisions that actually are ours to make.

    Granted, this scenario does not mirror that last situation, since these are new members who have been exposed to unrighteous dominion and are looking for counsel, but the equal but opposite tendencies still are real and powerful and enticing. Just ask Calvin.

  79. Josh Smith says:

    I also think kevinf has it just about right. I’ll renew my efforts to sustain my bishop.

  80. Tanya Sue says:

    After some less than desirable situations with priesthood leaders I have determined that all that matters is what Heavenly Father (or God) thinks of me and my actions. Policies and practices in the church change on a regular basis which is why your individual relationship with God is so important. While some times leaders receive wonderful revelation, sometimes they have bad days too and all of us let our personal experiences influence us. My bishop and his wife were quite happy with her at home and I am confident that he would tell the wife to stay home and the man to work harder. I think he would do that without seeking reveltation because in his mind it is the only way.

    I would counsel the couple to strive to live their lives in a way that is pleasing to God-whatever way that is.

  81. lurker, esq. says:

    Everyone is talking about this particular hypothetical, but this situation (except for the recent converts) is exactly the situation a relative of mine is facing. Guess what. She’s not working, he is.

  82. I’d open my scriptures with Brother and Sister Smith-Jones to the final few verses of D&C 121 and point out that verse 39 refers to almost all men. As the leader of the ward, I’d apologize for their mistreatment and accept responsibility to correct the HT and RS Pres in question.

  83. Sorry, I don’t have time to read all the comments, but I would apologize on behalf of the HTs and the RS Pres and tell them to pray about it and do what they felt is right. And then I would have a chat with the HTs and the RS Pres.

    My general rule is unless they are doing something that would make them not worthy for the temple, it’s none of my business on a personal level. That’s not to say that I can’t give advice when asked, or that I can’t give general advice (ie. advice that applies in general but not necessarility in every specific case) in a setting such as sacrament meeting. But it is not appropriate to tell individual members how they need to apply principles to their lives (again, as long as they are not doing anything that would make them unworthy for the temple, which of course is also a judgement call). As I’ve brought up before, I’ll bring up my favorite quote from Joseph Smith: “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.” (or something like that)

    I don’t feel that’s contrary to the advice a GA would give, but I’m not sure.

  84. I have more comments, but to CS Eric’s situation … frankly, after the first visit, I wouldn’t have let the RS president in my door. No call to the bishop required.

    It does raise the issue — under what circumstances are you obligated to open your door to *any* member? My EQ presidency came over one time; I was outside cleaning out my car. I think they wanted to come in; I saw no need to particularly let them inside (yes, the house was in disarray).

    I have suggested to the bishop that if he wanted to stop by, he should call and set up an appointment. That bishop didn’t feel offended. Once when serving in a leadership role, they wanted a meeting at my house. I recommended the chapel.

    My house is typically neat and clean (typically, not always), but our family just doesn’t feel a sense of duty to invite leaders unannounced into our home. That goes for the missionaries as well.

    (In fact, the missionaries showed up an hour late for a dinner appointment one night … and didn’t call. DW met them at the door with their dinner in a take-home container. You don’t mess with her schedule.)

    I don’t believe I have ever dropped by a ward member’s house without calling first. It’s just inappropriate unless you have some sort of close personal relationship that permits that sort of thing (and even then … call first).

  85. I have seen a family member go through a work situation similar to Bob and Mary, and I may have another family member doing this soon.

    My take is that I would counsel the members to take it to the temple, fast, and pray (as Julie suggests). But I would also provide some counsel:

    – I would provide counsel to Bob that he consider what his career prospects would be if for some reason the pregnancy leaves Mary unable to work. If he’s not satisfied with his lab tech position, maybe he should take the opportunity (as a stay-at-home dad) to find ways to use his time to upgrade his possibilities. (By the way, I would give that advice to a SAHM as equally as I would to a SAHD.)

    – I would acknowledge the Church’s general *counsel* (not commandment). You can’t hide it, you can’t get away from it, you shouldn’t apologize for it.

    – Encourage Mary to form bonds with sisters in the ward who work. Don’t give her an excuse to “stay away” from the RS just because she works. She needs to maintain ties with the RS, even if she’s not home during the day.

    – Encourage Bob to find some activity so that he’s not just at home all day.

    – Encourage Bob to take the child to any playday activities that the RS organizes. And make sure that the RS is OK with it. Don’t “punish” the child.

    I have seen it happen before where wives decide they want to go back home, and the SAHD doesn’t know how to go back to work.

    At any rate, the Church would rather have a woman working than have the family on welfare. :)

  86. On the subject of names – it’s none of the ward’s business what legal or preferred name the wife wants to use. If the ward clerk complains that the name doesn’t fit his “system” for the ward directory, gently remind him that MLS is set up to be flexible enough for international use, with any naming scheme. Kevin Barney can rename yourself as Kevin Bartsimpson and his wife as Hillary Catwoman, if they so desire, without changing their legal names in the Church’s system. They can also have the Church recognize those as their legal names if they were to legally change their names.

    Names. Don’t. Matter. To. The. Church.

  87. And on the matter of dress, as my bishop says, I’d rather have them at Church wearing whatever they want than not be at Church.

    And the RS president needs to remember that.

  88. bbell (#53),

    I completely agree that the counsel given by a bishop or stake president can be inspired, and is more likely to be inspired when someone is seeking it out.

    The problem is some bishops and stake presidents cannot tell the difference between counsel and command. Too many have no concept of bounded discretion and conceive of the priesthood as a divinely authorized despotism.

    It is my understanding that the only body with the right to set binding doctrine and practice is the consensus of the FP and Q12. If any individual tells you to do something beyond that (outside of your responsibility in some calling or another), they have exceeded their authority and their priesthood is nil.

    That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t counsel, advise, and exhort – but rather that the expectation of automatic obedience to counsel is the death of the Church. In terms I grew up with, that is Satan’s plan. I don’t think God himself has that kind of authority. The Constitution is inspired, no?

  89. (The Constitution is inspired in that we can modify it. The original version was fairly flawed in some key respects, I think, that we thankfully have modified.)

    I agree with Mark D., in that their is a difference between counsel and command. But I think members sometimes say this as a salve to their souls when they choose to disregard the counsel. Sometimes they should listen a bit closer to counsel. That’s why I would have reiterated the position of the brethren to Bob and Mary, just so that they did understand the official COUNSEL and would understand why it was given.

    Inspiration is better understood when you fully understand the options and parameters…

  90. Floyd the Wonderdog says:

    #7- My wife is one of the few stay-at-home moms in our ward and is shunned by the working mothers.

    RonanJH- As a former bishop, HEAR HEAR!! One of our bishops kept a cigar cutter in his office for just such a reason.

    I had a HT who decided to teach the parable of the camel and the eye of the needle. He had decided that I was too rich (I’m middle-class formerly poor as proverbial dirt) and needed to be humbled. he blew a gasket when I told him that there was no gate at Jerusalem that required camels to enter on their knees. The next Sunday he attacked me personally in HP saying that I was too educated. No, I have a near photographic memory and can quote back verbatim scriptures and GA statements to back my part of the discussion. (In this ward it is why we are required to pay tithing to receive a temple recommend.) I asked for a new HT.

    As bishop, I would apologize for the actions of the RS Pres and HT’s. And then advise the couple to as the Lord’s direction. Then encourage them to have FHE, read their scriptures, have family and personal prayer, and work toward going to the temple. Then as bishop I would discuss with the RS Pres and HT’s why this is none of their business and that they need to apologize to the couple.

  91. bbell #5 – I would like to mildly challenge your assumption that such a “hypothetical” siutation could never occur in the average LDS Ward. During the time I served as bishop and since then, I have often dealt with the feelings of new converts who have been similarly offended by the honest, good intentions of less than sensative long time members. A typical example is their suggestion that Sunday worship includes “specific activities” and that unless you are following those practices you are not a good church member.

    When I was bishop I came to rely heavily on advice offered by Elder Dallin H. Ooaks at a regional conference shortly after I was called. I’m sure I’ve discussed this on this page before so please excuse my redundancy. Immediately after being called to serve as bishop it seemed like I was inundated with questions about “the rules.” What is proper Sabbath Day observance? Should I pay tithing on a gift or inheritance? etc. I was perplexed and all of my studying of the General Handbook did not reveal any rules. I prayed for guidance. Then about six months later President Hinkley and Elder Oaks came for a regional conference. Elder Oaks was the first to speak and the first words out of his mouth were, “In our church we don’t have rules. We have doctine and we have principles.” Then he repeated those same lines, in my opinion, just so he could be sure that I heard him.

    I took this as an answer to my prayers. From that day forward I have believed that while we have specific doctrine to guide us and we have prophets and apostles to lead us in the right direction, so much of our lives should be governed by our direct communtication with the Lord.

    I would explain to Brother Jones and Sister Smith-Jones that how they want to divvy up responsibilities in their home was their business alone and that as long as they both agreed to the arrangment that is all that mattered. I would explain that their HT and RS president might have been esposing their own personal beliefs and that the GA in question was following or suggesting an ideal but that what mattered most was what they had decided after prayful consideration. I might also explain to them that part of our experience in the church is learning to accept all the members despite their proclivities toward certain specifics and that once we accept that we will often disagree, pleasantly, on some issues the sooner we can begin to practice loving our neighbor as the Lord has commanded.

  92. queuno (#83),

    Our RS president only visits my wife when I am at work, and my wife lets her in because she is much nicer than I am. The call to the bishop happened after my wife called me in tears because she just received another vicious attack from the RS president. Had I been home, I would either not have let her in the house, or would have thrown her out as soon as she started.

    I have since decided that the best way to characterize the two leaders of our ward is that the Bishop is the father of the ward, and our RS president is the ward’s meddling mother-in-law.

  93. Antonio Parr says:

    The comments in this thread are unusually engaging, so much so that I find nothing to add that would be of worth, notwithstanding my interest in the topic. I am left feeling like Charlie Brown in the following exchange with Lucy and Linus:

    Lucy Van Pelt: Aren’t the clouds beautiful? They look like big balls of cotton. I could just lie here all day and watch them drift by. If you use your imagination, you can see lots of things in the cloud’s formations. What do you think you see, Linus?

    Linus Van Pelt: Well, those clouds to me look like the map of the British Honduras on the Carribbean.
    [points up]

    Linus Van Pelt: That cloud up there looks a little like the profile of Thomas Eakins, the famous painter and sculptor. And that group of clouds over there

    Linus Van Pelt: gives me the impression of the Stoning of Stephen. I can see the Apostle Paul standing there to one side.

    Lucy Van Pelt: Uh huh. That’s very good. What do you see in the clouds, Charlie Brown?

    Charlie Brown: Well… I was going to say I saw a duckie and a horsie but I changed my mind.

    ‘Nuff said!

  94. Latter-day Guy says:

    CS Eric,

    Has there been any response from the bishop? Because this seriously sounds like the RS president from hell. Good luck with this.

  95. I echo what was said in #90. If you haven’t seen this already or don’t believe it could happen, just wait a little while longer. I have not personally been accosted in such a way, but I am familiar with instances of it occurring.

    My own sense would be to tell them that what offends other Church members is not necessarily offensive to the Lord. Likewise, I am not much concerned whether my counsel would be at variance with that of a GA, as long as it does not vary from the counsel that the Lord might give them (because I don’t accept a 1-to-1 identity between those two things). That said, it is ultimately within their stewardship and agency to determine the will of the Lord for their family.

    For question #3, I wonder whether you are talking about the “old wood” being old ideas/doctrine or old members that need to be put away. Unfortunately I am not sure that the Church has somewhere where old doctrine goes to die.

  96. Latter-day Guy (#93),

    Yes, the bishop went to the house to smooth things over with my wife in less than an hour after I called him, then called me to assure me he would take care of things. The man is seriously one of the best bishops I’ve ever had. He and his family are the main reasons we limited our search to this ward when we decided to get out of the renting business and buy a house.


  98. In the church it is sometimes better to be enigmatic than an open book. Often members intent on discovering everyone else’s business need to be silenced unless they are your direct priesthood leaders. You wouldn’t think the gospel would attract dysfunctional and abusive individuals but it does.

    This goes for the RS President in the thread. Once, a RS President requested that I remove 3 children she suspected were being abused by their parents. I kindly asked her when I might be able to drop the children off at her door to be raised for the next 10 years. There was silence in the room. Eventually the abusive situation was resolved by social workers not by the RS Pres.

  99. queno (#88),

    I am saying that generally speaking members flat out do not have an obligation to obey or follow counsel. That is a contradiction in terms – one obeys or disobeys commands or orders or instructions – it is impossible to disobey counsel, because by definition counsel is not something one has a specific obligation to follow or obey.

    Morally speaking, if something is a matter of counsel – it is solely the moral responsibility of the individual member (i.e. it is within the bounds of their discretion) and it is irrational to place special moral opprobrium on any person who comes to a decision contrary to counsel for no other reason than the bare fact of that disagreement.

    Any schema where a person has an obligation to follow counsel is an Orwellian distortion of the language. Some people seem to use the term in precisely that manner, and that I am objecting to.

  100. 1. How do you advise them to proceed?
    To encourage them to pray about their decision. I’ve never had a problem with thinking that for every rule that Heavenly Father gives us, there may be exceptions. Who are we, as His children, to put God in a box by saying what He can and cannot do? If Heavenly Father wants a stay-at-home father and a working mother in a situation, then that’s what should happen. He will guide this husband and wife in any direction they need to go; they should be encouraged to pursue that answer from Him.

    2. Is the advice you give at variance with the advice a GA might give?
    I don’t think so. But I’m not a GA, so I wouldn’t know. However, I’d like to meet the GA who believes it’s his place to judge those of us (converts especially) who have had to make tough decisions like this out of necessity. “Judge not lest you be judged,” y’all.

    3. Gordon B. Hinckley has observed that new converts are the lifeblood of the church, and that without them, the church would wither and die. He has also spoken about the lesson he learned as a young man from pruning fruit trees in the orchard. The newest wood produces the best fruit, and the old, dead wood must continually be cut away. Do you think that idea has application?
    If there’s any dead wood, it comes with the expectation that Heavenly Father doesn’t permit for exceptions. There are plenty of examples in the scriptures where Heavenly Father has broken His own “rules” because it needed to be done. And with the state of the world being what it is, more and more converts will be coming issues that don’t fit into the polarized, right-vs-wrong schema that many people have about the Church. I am currently one of those converts, and I have only ever done what has met the dictates of my conscience at the time–as influenced by the scriptures and counsil from the prophets. Anyone who expects anything more from any convert has no idea what it’s like to be a convert.

  101. awestruck says:

    I’m a little late on this post, but wanted to contribute a bit about “stewardship”. I believe that boundaries and stewardship are frequently crossed in church relationships (with often the best of intentions but the worst of outcomes). I believe there are plenty of church teachings about free agency, and personal revelation for ourselves and our families to fall back upon, but even bishops sometimes fail to distinguish where the boundaries are. My bishop (who I really do love and support) has been called on the carpet at least several times for crossing these boundaries (I am personally aware of these episodes because I was his RP for 3 years). The most recent episode involved a sister who was called into his office (unsolicited) and advised to stop teaching institute because she needed to focus more on her family. She was advised to pray and study Sr. Beck’s talk, especially the “conserve limited energy” part. She and her very active husband were deeply offended and went to the SP, who laughed, and called the bishop and told him to back off. The SP again taught the couple that these things were a matter of personal revelation between them and the Lord. I hope sometime the day comes when we can learn to focus on the big picture, and quit meddling so much in things that don’t contribute to real growth.

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