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Monday, June 06, 2005 

Read Doctrine and Covenants 121

"When you find fault with local priesthood leaders, how do you handle it?"

I generally try to not partake in finding fault with local priesthood leaders. I don’t have a general problem with authority figures, so unless something is glaringly wrong, I don’t go looking for trouble.

Have I ever personally had “issues” with either a priesthood leader or something they said or did? Of course, doesn’t everyone at some point, isn’t that part of AGENCY? So how did I handle it? With my usual panache…I either followed their counsel because the Spirit witnessed to me that I should because it was the right thing to do, I pondered the counsel a little first and tried to gain a testimony of it if it didn’t come “naturally”, I didn’t follow the counsel and did my own thing fully knowing and accepting the consequences. (I am never an exception to the rules.)

Basically, I try to do what the Spirit encourages me to do. I try to listen and be receptive to its counsel. I’m not always in the position in my life to do so. There have been times in my life when I was avoiding the Spirit like the plague (and it was definitely avoiding me) because my actions where not in line to receive that sort if personal revelation or direction. It seems to me that those times were probably the times when I was most resistant to priesthood counsel as well, including that of my own father.

Fortunately, I have never had the experience of a priesthood leader asking me to do something that was contrary to the Spirit. I have disagreed with counsel on a personal level, a cultural level, or a personality level, but never on a doctrinal/spiritual level. I mean it happens, I don’t deny it. Occasionally, people, humans, put in leadership positions have personal struggles and do bad stuff. Hopefully, the people being led have enough sense to recognize it and do something about it, like tactfully take the issue to the proper “authorities”.

I read something recently in the biography of Hugh Nibley that really resonated with me and my personal view of Church leaders:

“Hugh’s testimony of contemporary Church leaders has been a result of his personal association with them from an early age, beginning with his grandfather…[who] frequently visited Hugh’s family…usually accompanied by other Church leaders. During those visits Hugh witnessed first-hand their imperfections: how they would sometimes cheat at golf, how their political beliefs occasionally overruled their religious duties, and how they sometimes disagreed with one another. Hugh could not be disillusioned by the actions of the Church leaders because he was never illusioned to begin with. He knew they were human.” (Boyd J. Petersen, Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life, pg 127)

Let me reiterate: “Hugh could not be disillusioned by the actions of the Church leaders because he was never illusioned to begin with. He knew they were human.”

I listened to one of my favorite radio shows yesterday, This American Life. A woman wittily detailed her decline in faith, from believer to total non-believer, as it unfolded starting with a chance visit from two Mormon missionaries. She went from “God is there, he loves me, and is my friend” to “there is no one there, I am totally alone, and there is no life after death…” While this sounds depressing, she made (or attempted to make) it funny, or at very least bitter sweet.

What irritated me was that she became more and more disillusioned with the Bible as she read it because she read it like a story; like one of Aesop’s fables, expecting some great and obvious moral statement at the end. She tried to apply her sense of modern ethics, civility, and manners on men and women who lived thousands of years ago.

If we read the Bible with that sort of literal attitude, the attitude of “just lay it all out for me so that I don’t have to think about it or make a personal judgment call using the Spirit on my own…just give me a list of stuff to do and not do”, all you’re going to get out of it is the feeling that it’s one MESSED UP story.

You have to see past the murder and the incest of the Old Testament to understand the layers and layers of teachings that are contained in those often strange stories. It takes faith to understand how it can possibly be applied to your “modern” life; faith and a healthy does of the Holy Ghost which cannot be present if you are not inviting him, nor relevant if you don’t listen to him or know how to.

Following priesthood leadership is sometimes similar. You have to see past the limps, the seemingly inhuman façade of unemotional mechanics, the speech impediments, the cultures, the accents, the schizophrenic wives who beat their grandchildren out in front of the chapel where the whole world is driving by, the criers, the bad joke tellers, the singers, the cursers, the verbal diarrhea-ers, the ones who look like Dick Tracy, your dad, and use the Spirit to understand the leadership beyond the packaging.

I have been blessed to have been associated with some great leaders and with the ability to accept the counsel of those who rightly preside over me. I can recognize this if and when I am in tune with the Spirit. If you’re not “rightfully presiding over me” then you’d better step off, because I know it, and I’m not gonna do it…good luck all.

A while back there was a show called "Clarissa Explains it All." I think what we have here is "Carrie Ann Explains It All" because you ALWAYS cover ALL of the bases.

I can't really cover how YOU feel about it, now can I? :)

I posted some comments a few weeks ago and was very impressed with how open and accepting people who post here seem to be. Faith can be a complex thing which evolves as our experiences change. I enjoyed reading what you had to say about the role of priesthood leadership in your life. How you have described you faith seems very healthy to me.
As I mentioned before I have developed some trust issues with the leadership of the church which have made things very difficult for me. I don't have a problem on the local level. My interactions have been pretty much all positive with ward and stake leaders and in my family. My problem stems from the top, where council and policy for the whole church flows. Most active mormons who have not had an experience to jar their faith in leadership tell me to just follow them and have faith that everything will work out for my good. This is no comfort to me because the problem is that it effects my whole family. It is not just about me, and following them could tear my family apart. I guess my point is, that sometimes huge conflicts arise in making choices to follow, or not follow council. It is no longer as simple as follow the council or be wrong. I think a lot of people experience this and just decide to eliminate the difficulty by separating from the church. I personally would never blame anyone for leaving, or think any less of them because I understand being between a rock and a hard place. If you can not relate to this be grateful, but please have compassion on those who can.

A.K.

One of my bishops was my next door neighbor, he was bishop for five years. During this time, he kicked my three year old daughter when she was fighting with his twins, of the same age. She came home crying and my momma bear alternate personality came out and I went over and ripped him out royal. I didn't speak to him for a year. I kept speaking to his wife and we went to church and everything, I just glared at him for a solid year. And he was next door, how awkward. One day I realized he was scared and sad about it and I repented.

He died 8 months after my son died, I took care of those twins while his wife tended to him in the hospital.

People are people. I tend to just take my beef to the source, and to try to reconcile things. I want everybody to be perfect and understanding of my imperfections.

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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