Correcting Our Priesthood Leaders

Should members feel entitled to correct their Priesthood leaders, based on their own understanding of higher authorities?

For example, let’s say your Bishop adopts a policy of some sort. And you realize that this policy goes against some statement in the Handbook, or in a First Presidency letter. (How do you know this? Perhaps you read the Handbook online. Perhaps your cousin’s wife’s aunt’s neighbor is a bishop in a ward in Poughkeepsie and you’ve ended up with a seventh-generation-xerox copy of something official. Perhaps you used to be an Elders Quorum President, and looked it up in your old Handbook that you’re still hanging onto. However it happened, you’re absolutely sure that you know the official rule, and your Bishop isn’t following it).

Is it your place then, as a member, to go wave your seventh-generation-xerox copy at your bishop and say “Bad Bishop! You need to start following the correct church policies! Get with the program!”?

I suspect that there are some reasons not to do this.

1. Lack of proper channels. It’s not the place of the general membership to correct the Bishop. Members in general do not have stewardship over the Bishop.

2. Lack of ward-specific guidance. The Bishop is entitled to guidance regarding members of the ward, while general members are not. Members may not know whether the Bishop made his decision to disregard an official letter saying “don’t talk about the deceased person too much at a funeral” because the Spirit instructed him to make that change. He’s entitled to the guidance of the Spirit as he tries to help his ward members.

3. Unclear status of directives from higher leaders to the Bishop. To put it into legal terms, it’s not clear that a letter from the First Presidency to a Bishop grants a “private right of action” for enforcement by local members. How many times do we see this lesson in the scriptures? If the Bishop is disregarding counsel from his own leaders, then those leaders may need to correct him. But it’s not at all certain that a letter to Bishops gives the general membership a private right of action.

4. Lack of knowledge of the whole record. There may be later missives that we don’t know about, as we bandy about our seventh-generation copy, that alter the Bishop’s instructions.

In addition to direct overruling, there may be implied overruling of prior directives. The church doesn’t really make clear the intended shelf life of some internal directives. It’s not clear that every Handbook statement or letter to bishops is intended to go into a permanent, canonical record of some kind. Some policies are quietly allowed to die a natural death. If the topic is one that the First Presidency hasn’t addressed since that 45-year-old letter, then perhaps the policy is expired.

This applies doubly to comparisons between a Bishop’s counsel and older published statements by former church leaders. There are thousands of statements made in the past by now-deceased prophets and leaders. Many of these can still be considered good doctrine, but many occupy a sort of doctrinal limbo.

I’m sure that there are other good reasons to refrain from using our own knowledge of the Handbook, or First Presidency letters, or prior statements of prophets, to presume to correct our Priesthood leaders.

And of course, there will be instances where correction is entirely appropriate. If your Bishop calls you in and says that you’ve been commanded to become his second wife, the time for obedience is past and the time for correction (and a quick call to the Stake President!) has arrived.

But as a general matter, I think that we should hesitate to presume to correct Priesthood leaders based on our own perception that they have not properly adopted official rules or policies.

[Post inspired by a few comments over at M*].

59 comments for “Correcting Our Priesthood Leaders

  1. My dad was a kind of free-wheeling bishop, and I think this upset the RS President, who told him she had just as much testimony of the Handbook as of the Book of Mormon!

  2. I just don’t see this as being that complicated. You make an appointment, you go in, you share your concerns with your bishop, and you take it from there. (See Numbers 27:1-11.)

  3. Kaimi, these are good points. Just last night, my bishop (also my neighbor) was telling me that at a mission farewell a few years ago, a woman approached him after the meeting. She asked “are you the bishop of this ward?” He said “yes.” And she said “Well, I want you to know this is the least reverent ward I have ever attended in my life. And you have GOT to do something about it.” After which she left in a huff.

    This kind of behavior is disgusting, for all of the reasons you’ve outlined. But most of those reasons can be summarized in one: hubris. 99% of the time it is pride and vanity that makes us think we have sufficient information to correct our church leaders.

    And now, a counterargument. In a conversation with my uncle, who is a Salt Lake Stake President, I asked him whether he spent much time dealing with ward members who complain of their bishops (my thought in asking this question was in finding out how he deals with these faithless members). He responded that yes, he has this happen frequently, and good thing too, because he’s had to correct his bishops every now and then. This answer surprised me. Apparently, for at least some Stake Presidents, the duty of oversight of bishops is a serious and necessary role, and one of the major ways this role is carried out is through intelligence supplied by complaining members. Now, even if you concede that these members are out of line to complain, it also must be conceded that they are sometimes correct in their conclusions that their bishops have misbehaved at some level.

    This sets up a pretty confusing structure. My own conclusion is that it would have to be something pretty egregious for me to try to correct or complain about a church leader. But it’s funny how many anecdotes always appear that make you realize how reasonable some complaints or corrections can end up being.

  4. Ryan… I think, in fact, that if one thinks it is serious enough, that going to the stake president is absolutely the right course of action… as you’re bring this issue to the attention of someone who has stewardship in the matter.

    This, though, is a hard issue for me, as I have opinions on just about everything, and I find it hard to keep them to myself… but I’m doing alright. I try to keep my venting to a minimum, and when I vent, I try to do it properly. I’m sensitive to the accusation of murmurring, and most confess that I’ve been guilty of it.

  5. My approach would be to simply bring the matter to the Bishop’s attention and then forget about it. So I would have no problem PRIVATELY pointing out a conflicting passage in the handbook.

    Bishop’s may have the “mantle of authority,” but they are not omniscient. I would imagine that most bishops would appreciate a bit of useful input from the members as long as it wasn’t obnoxious or mean-spirited.

    But take up the issue with the bishop directly. Don’t go griping about it to your buddies in Elders Quorum. Once you’ve told him about the concern, it’s up to him to deal with it. After pointing out the conflict, don’t mention it again.

    Unless, of course, it’s a matter of serious concern or transgression. In which case, you may want to take it up with the Stake President (I’d probably inform the bishop of my intentions as well).

    There’s nothing wrong with giving input as long as you’re respectful about it and don’t seek to undermine “the kingdom.”

  6. Yes you correct him.

    Most bishops are down-to-earth people who can be reasoned with. Some might take some offense, but if they see the evidence, they’ll most likely change. Only a tiny handful would rebuke you or ignore your concerns. Those folks have always been around, always will be around, and it’s best to just stay out of their way, ride out their term of service, and pray they never get much responsibility again.

  7. I’m with Julie. It’s not complicated. Frankly, I don’t even see this as particularly controversial (unlike Steve apparently). That’s not to say that people always get it right, of course . . . .

  8. Bishops are put in place in inspiration, but it’s not like they all of a sudden know every church practice, every letter from the first presidency, and so on. When my father-in-law became a bishop, I was surprised a bit about everything he had to know and do. I also realized how human he was. Most bishops are humble and are willing to listen to what you have to say. If they deem it as correct, they will likely follow it. But don’t do it out of spite, only for the building up of the kingdom of God, and not to bring somebody down.

    BTW, is there anything wrong with having a testimony of the handbook?

  9. From either the military (chain of command) or judicial (stake Pres. is the next ‘court’ above the bishop) point of view, ‘appealing’ to the Stake Pres. seems very reasonable.

    That said, I remember an embarrassing incident where a pair of missionaries tried to ‘correct’ a Bishop who was having Sunday School opening exercises as a ward, right after the sacrament mtg, by showing him the Ensign article stating the church was discontinuing this policy. In retrospect, as noted by others, this was an act of hubris, not of respect and building; and not worth wasting a stake president’s time over.

  10. I think that correcting our priesthood leaders at times is not only our right but our duty.

    Nephi ever so subtly corrected Lehi when his bow broke an the Lehites complained about food.

    In the Marines it was all about chain of command. If you had a problem about something you take it to the leader who was directly in charge of you. If he doesn’t want to or can’t take care of it you take it to the guy that’s in charge of him.

    The Priesthood can only be handled by principles of righteousness.

  11. Yes, it’s simple. (#2 and #8)

    I wonder whether some complaints are not just about personal preferences, when the outcome of the bishop’s specific actions would not negatively affect ward members who go along with it. Gee, if the bishop had to listen to every member who would do something differently, when would he have time to actually serve?

  12. N Miller,

    Nothing wrong at all with having a testimony of the Handbook. But ranking it on equal footing with scripture is a bit much, I should think.

  13. As several have suggested, I think “correct” is the wrong verb. It should be “bring to the attention of.” I’ve had some bishops who know the handbook like a canon lawyer, and others who didn’t. I wouldn’t assume that it was necessarily a conscious breach of protocol. I would just make sure he had taken the handbook provision into account in reaching his decision.

    Besides, I kind of like a bishop who is willing to override the handbook in appropriate circumstances.

    I remember a number of years ago our bishop cancelled SS and Priesthood/Relief Society on Christmas day (or maybe it was Christmas Eve). We just had the special sacrament program–longer than usual–and then went home to spend the day with our families. He did this knowing the stake wanted the full slate of meetings held. Well, three cheers for my old bishop! And doing this didn’t seem to hurt him any. The stake was mad at him for awhile, but then he was called into the Stake Presidency, was called as a mission president, and is now a temple president. A leader who can think for himself and resist petty bureaucracy is something to be valued in this church.

  14. Mark M. (#12), as phrased, you are doubtless correct–some complaints are about nothing more than personal preferences. I doubt anyone here will defend such whining. But in my (albeit limited) experience, I’ve seen a greater propensity to keep quite and not rock the boat than the condition you worry about. Perhaps you’ve had the opposite experience.

  15. Rules typically don’t bother me as, by and large, I see them serving primarily an administrative, rather than spiritual function. I think the real issue is when we should correct priesthood leadership on doctrinal issues. There have been a number of occasions in my life where I felt that priesthood leadership stood on very shaky ground when expounding upon gospel principles. Only on one occasion did I meet privately with the person so seek clarification and that was because the doctrine in question appeared as a recurring theme in every sermon/lesson/discussion that person had. Should we correct on doctrine?

  16. Randy (#15), I can go along with that. When there is a legimate concern of possible harm, talk with the bishop about the concern.

  17. N Miller, There is nothing wrong with having a testimony of the handbook. I personally don’t like the usage of the word “testimony” as that connotes (in my view) a belief in more eternal principles such as the atonement of Jesus Christ.

    I feel that the handbook is a guide to use for running church units. In many instances, though, following the handbook to a letter would be imprudent and unwise. A bishop, relief society president, and all other local leaders need to adapt the guidelines of the handbook to fit the circumstances of their specific units. This idea has been specifically discussed in a recent leadership training broadcast from SLC.

  18. Paul, you should take up Julie’s suggestion (i.e., see Numbers 27: 1-11).

  19. Kaimi, a very wise post. I learned on blogging about ark steadying–I didn’t know the term for it before. I am guilty of bossing my bishop around, but I realized by hard experience that even if I was intellectually right at times, it just never worked out and I didn’t grow from it. I try harder and for the most part, successfully, to keep my mouth shut.

    #14, yes, I agree with that. I also think it’s a matter of motive and attitude.

    I periodically re-read an article called The Brethren and the Lord: A Letter to My Children by Duane Boyce to remind myself of the right attitude. It was printed in This People magazine, Fall 1995 issue. It’s a very good exploration of this issue.

  20. Paul, in #16 brings up a very good point. When it comes to church policy (like children bearing their “testimonies” at the prompting of mom, dad, or sibling) I would largely ignore it to a point. Unless it is continually leaving the spirit out of the meeting, most of the time it is best that we keep to ourselves.
    Doctrine, I don’t think, is much different. I think it is important to know when doctrine contradicts your personal desires and when it is sufficiently wrong in truth. I have at times been taught doctrine that I felt was wrong, but in turning to the scriptures, makes sense what was taught and was edified by the spirit on it later. On the most part, I don’t think that leaders teach wrong doctrine often. But from time to time, it may. I like Paul’s stance in talking to the person if it is a recurring theme. I don’t think a one-time doctrinal oversight means we need to go straight to the person to correct them or enlighten them, besides, who is to say we are the correct one? This is a perfect church with imperfect people. Sometimes it’s good to know that some people aren’t perfect.

  21. If it really sticks in your craw, then it seems perfectly appropriate to talk to them privately, as mentioned above. What would be inappropriate would be talking about their perceived errors publically or behind their back.

    Backbiting it not an avenue open to the saints, but I think it is an easy trap to fall into.

  22. The last thing bishops and/or stake presidents need are complaints. Do your home teaching and visitng teaching. Magnify your calling. Love your family. Good things will happen in your lives and in those lives that you touch. The Lord forgives the errors of the diligent much more quickly than the errors of the sloth.

  23. I agree with Frank: No backbiting. No sandbagging.

    But, let your priesthood leaders know if you have a problem with something they’ve done/failed to do that you believe they should have.

    If said in the proper spirit, and in the right forum (privately), I would expect priesthood leaders to gratefully accept your comments, counsel with you about your concerns, and consider those concerns in future decisions.

    In a way, it’s just a corollary to Elder Ballard’s lessons about counseling with our councils–we will have better bishops and stake presidents if they listen to points of view other than their own.

  24. I’ve had two reactions when I’ve “corrected” a leader. Either he has agreed and apologized, or explained his reasoning and stuck to his guns and we’ve agreed to disagree. I’m not so arrogant that I think the priesthood leaders have to agree with me all the time. But some have seen me as a bit of a whiner….

  25. “Members in general do not have stewardship over the Bishop.” No, but the Handbook does :)

    Elder Eyring gave a devotional at BYU in which he said that he was doing some Stake training, and someone asked him about policy in some area or other. Eyring responded with what should be done in such a situation, and another SP responded by (humbly, I’m sure) saying, “Um… that’s not what the Handbook says.” Elder Eyring’s response? “You find out what the Handbook says and stick to it.”

  26. Though only tangential to the post, I have also wondered about obsolescence in church policy (and sometimes doctrine) and what that does to the policy or doctrine, given that neither are often formally retracted. My personal opinion is that we tacitly practice a modified form of desuetude (a legal term that basically means that if a law hasn’t been enforced in a long time, it is unfair to enforce it against an unsuspecting violator). In the context of the church, my belief is that if it hasn’t been said from the pulpit for some time, then I’m not responsible for it. That is, if the only way I would know that I’m not supposed to do X is to consult a 1945 Improvement Era, I don’t think that either the Church or the Lord can hold me responsible for my “violation” of that policy or doctrine.

    Nowhere is this more apparent than in the context of the marital bedroom (sorry to bring this topic up, but it illustrates the point extremely well). In the early 1980s, the First Presidency asked Bishops to tell their respective congregations that, among other things, oral sex was an unholy and impure practice. Over the next 25 years, however, that standard has changed to what me, my wife, and the Lord are comfortable with (unless the handbook has changed since I last had a calling that necessitated one). While I recognize that these two standards are not necessarily mutually exclusive, my ecclesiastical experience tells me that most younger couples getting married today have no idea that oral sex might be outside the bounds of holy and pure sexual practices. It would seem capricious to me for the Lord to hold those of that haven’t heard such counsel culpable for the conduct. Thus enters my desuetude theory (which I have an easier time believing in than in a fickle diety).

    This, of course, brings up a myriad of other questions that I can’t answer with my theory. For example, was this a question of doctrine or policy for the church? If the answer is the latter, how can the violation of a policy be unholy and impure? If the answer is the former, then how is it that the doctrine can change on this issue over the course of 20 years? Can it be unholy for a couple in 1980, but not for a couple in 2005? I recognize that we ostensibly went from the Law of Moses to the “greater law” in the course of a few years, but that also required a dispensational change.

  27. This seems absolutely uncontroversial to me. There is nothing wrong with taking up one’s concerns with the Bishop or Stake President _in private_. This has been discussed ad nauseam on this blog and others in the past. Last year, taking concerns, in private, to the Bishop or Stake President, and if necessary to increasing levels of authority, rather than disobeying, announcing your concern publicly, or spreading it like gossip, was touted as the proper and conservative approach to disagreements with authority. Suddenly, months later, it becomes a controversial affront to authority? Hmmmm.

    By taking our concerns directly, privately to the bishop, and then to increasingly higher authorities if necessary, we will never have to “correct” a bishop. Either he will agree with our concerns and correct himself, he will be corrected by those with the authority to do so, or we will be.

    A more appropriate question concerning the comments at the M* would be whether it is appropriate to publicly declare or publish the fact that you “corrected” a bishop’s mistake?

  28. Incidentally, Kaimi, I agree with you when you say “I think that we should hesitate to presume to correct Priesthood leaders based on our own perception that they have not properly adopted official rules or policies.”

  29. JMW, perhaps I’m reading Kaimi incorrectly here (Kaimi, come out, come out, wherever you are . . .), but I think Kaimi was subtly poking fun at M* in an effort to provoke and not actually asserting that the comments there constituted “a controversial affront to authority.”

  30. While once serving as a counselor in a bishopric I had a former Elder’s Quorum President, someone who didn’t like our style of leadership, come into the office after church and tell us he didn’t feel the spirit when we taught. He got very angry and said we weren’t representing the Lord. We tried to understand him and speak to him, but he wasn’t having it. He ended up taking a small group of members to the Stake President, seeking our ouster.

    I was pretty traumatized by the experience and wondered if perhaps we weren’t doing something wrong. The stake president told us not to worry, to just ignore this guy. I began comparing notes with other bishoprics (also served in 2 others) over the last 10 years and I’ve been surprised at how common this experience is. In every ward I’ve been in, there is a grouop of hostiles that simply loves to sock it to the bishopric. I’m not talking about the gossips or complainers. I’m talking about a select few with the ability to do damage who take a particular delight in going for the jugular.

    I’m probably just really weak, but that experience robbed me of some of my confidence, and I’ve had to develop a tough skin in other leadership callings since. I think most leaders feel the same way, and I’ve always tried to keep that in mind when it comes to concerns I have over something they’ve said or done.

    If you’re concerned about something, chances are someone else (more than one, probably) has already made a point of talking to the bishop about it, and it’s also likely that the bishop has been attacked over the matter by someone much less respectful than yourself. And he’s likely weighed their concerns and consciously decided to ignore them, if he’s continuing with what concerned you in the first place. If you must press the issue, think carefully about how that might affect your bishop. Generally speaking, no one thinks about the bishop’s needs. Everyone thinks about what they need from the bishop. Ever since I figured that out I’ve tried to help the bishop, invite him and his family over for dinner (more than once I’ve had a bishop tell me that was the first invitation he’d received from anyone), and generally give him the feeling like I have his back. I consider this my duty, upholding him with my faith, confidence, and prayers. And any leader will tell you it makes all the difference in the world. I’ve always appreciated and relied on the kind and liberal support I’ve felt from certain of those I’ve lead at different times.

    I’ve found that as I’ve tried to develop that type of relationship with my bishops–in a couple of cases we’ve become close friends, having lunch together, double-dating, etc.–the bishop will start to open up and discuss his concerns (never breeching confidentiality), particularly about whether he’s doing the right or wrong thing in this or that situation. In those forums, where the bishop–someone who is in a constant spotlight, under heavy scrutiny none of us would enjoy, and who is guaranteedly getting attacked by some yahoo or another in the ward–feels like he’s talking to a trusted friend, someone who is in his corner and is faithful to him, I’ve found the bishop is ready and willing to talk about pretty much anything, including ways he could improve.

    If I don’t have that kind of rapport with the bishop, I don’t feel comfortable talking with him about how he could improve his leadership.

    It’s tempting to qualify all of this by saying certain circumstances could warrant turning on the bishop. But then I think of David who couldn’t hurt the Lord’s anointed, even after the Lord’s anointed had become a monster.

  31. obselence? Another word I have to figure out. I can’t understand that sentence substituting the word adolescent. I hate this confusion.

    I think Seth has nailed it. If you discreetly mention something, and let it go, without a need to control the outcome, that is one thing. If you yell loud and proud and gripe to everybody and don’t let it go, it’s more than the original issue. It becomes about power and control and I think—-polemics and personalities. Take it from one who has done all the above and never been glad of it.

    Josh Kim, I’ve dealt with a lot of marines, a lot, in the chain of command, and I can’t see any PFC complaining, correcting his sargeant, being ignored and going over his head. I don’t see that having a good conclusion for anybody. I never met a Marine officer who appreciated being corrected. Whole different organization, of course. But I don’t think there is any comparison.

  32. Amen, babshe. Amen. It has been my experience in leadership that women are generally more willing to bring complaints to the leaders than men. Have others had the same experience? I am not condemning women or suggesting something sinister, but I wonder if the fact that women will not — at least in the near future — be bishops or stake presidents has anything to do with my correlative observation?

  33. I’ve always counted the bishop as a friend, and so I would have no difficulty talking to him privately if I thought something was amiss. I can’t think of a case where I ever felt the need.

    But I do recall a situation where I publicly “corrected” some church leaders (but not our bishop). I was sitting in priesthood opening exercises, and it was announced that the stake was going to cook the world’s largest pancake or some such thing. A flyer was passed around, which indicated that this was for charity. Well, I started asking questions, trying to understand, and it turned out that this was a harebrained scheme cooked up by a couple of missionaries in the stake to get people from the community out to the church. The “charity” was some official sounding name the missionaries just made up. Everyone got a good laugh out of that, but I objected in strenuous terms to the church being party to such a stupid idea and misrepresenting itself to the public. If you want to cook a pancake, do it as the Church of Jesus Christ, not some nonexistent charity. There were also questions about whether this really would be a world record and whether the proposed cooking method would really work, etc. The proposal was scuttled. So I basically single-handedly quashed a proposal that leaders had just gone along with in the name of missionary work without thinking all the way through the ramifications of it.

  34. I’m all for having open discussions with your bishop about things that concern you. Most good bishops will welcome the opportunity to hear you out and to make reasonable adjustments as necessary. However, before you go tearing your bishop’s head off over any particular issue, ask yourself a few questions:

    1. Am I expecting an unrealistic standard of my bishop? Is this just nit-picking?
    2. What is motivating me to discuss this issue?
    3. Is the issue really so important that it justifies taking the bishop’s time away from more worthy matters (i.e. people with *real problems* like deaths in the family, marital issues, health concerns, etc.)?
    4. Have I recently told/shown my bishop and other leaders how much I appreciate the sacrifices they make for our ward?

  35. BTW, I am a bishop’s wife, and it’s no picnic. In fact, it has been one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had in my life. One of the things that makes it so hard is that in addition to never seeing my husband and having to take on most of the domestic responsibilities of the household, ward members constantly complain that he doesn’t meet their ideal of a perfect bishop. I’m not saying that people haven’t expressed some truly legitimate concerns–he is by no means perfect. He is young and inexperienced and at times uninformed. But when certain members of the ward get into the habit of sending a monthly email detailing every minute way in which my husband doesn’t measure up to their standards, this is going a bit too far.

    Bishops (and their wives) are people, too. They have feelings just like you. They’re just doing the best they can. Cut them a little slack–there’s no bishop training program out there. So much of what they do is just trial and error. Especially if they’re young, or new to the church, or not getting much guidance from leaders up the chain (because the Stake President is new at this job, too!).

    Instead of looking for ways to correct your bishop, why not look for ways that you can support him? The burdens of the bishop and his family are great–do you lighten this load or add to it?

  36. I’m currently in a Bishopric and can testify that we have no problem with a member pointing out an area where the ward might not be following procedure or otherwise lacking. In fact, just last Sunday, our Bishop asked the ward council where they saw problems so that we can devote our 5th-Sunday meeting to it this month. Reverence in meetings and in the Church building was the decided-upon topic. Others brought up were starting and ending meetings on-time, moving HT/VT beyond mere contacting to true shepherding, and expanding our individual personal circles of friends to include more members that don’t necessarily fall into the same socio-economic strata.

    Our Stake Presidency also asks our Stake’s Bishops in their PPIs about the input they’ve gotten from members because sure-as-shooting if it’s a problem in one ward it’s a problem in another. Those comments often become the basis of our monthly Stake Bishopric’s Training Meeting.

  37. Maria, very true. I think Elder Maxwell put it best when he asked if we are “high maintenance, low yield members or high yield, low maintenance members.” My little brother is a new bishop. He is only 26 and he is trying to feel his way into the calling. He is dealing with heavy issues and a steep learning curve. He, like all bishops, will make mistakes, get things wrong, offend some. The Lord knows that and nonetheless approves. I cringe at the thought of his ward members looking for ways to correct instead of assist.

    Bishops are the workhorses of the church. Without them, the system fails. They need help from below and instruction from above, not the other way around. As Joseph Smith said, “it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves . . .”

  38. Paul–thanks for the validation.

    And may God have mercy upon your brother and his wife. My unsolicited advice for you is to always be their greatest cheerleader–if our experience is representative they’ll definitely need it. They’ll likely be plagued by doubts that they’re not going about things the right way, that they’re not even making a difference, etc. You can play an important, affirmative role there.

    Also, regarding your point above re: women, in at least my husband’s experience (that I am aware of, and a lot of the time I don’t get any details) it is primarily the men that do the complaining. *Most* of the women in our ward are sweet and characteristically non-confrontational. However, I can see why, in certain cases, women, feeling disenfranchised from the institutional hierarchy, might feel like complaining was there only option for affecting change.

  39. Where to begin???

    As a former bishop, I was open to criticism, provided it came with a solution. My counsellors were first in line, and I constantly sought their guidance; one was a former bishop, and the other had served in several bishoprics. I sought direction from the RS President, all of the PEC brethren, and if a member ever felt that they needed to visit with me, my door was always open.

    I can assure you that there were many times when I made a comment to someone that would have best been left unsaid, or enforced a policy (like a stake dress standard for the youth), and the SP was complained to. Quite frankly, when it came time to realign the ward boundaries (85% of the new ward was our original ward), I believe that much of the decision to drop my ward, change the name to the other ward in the building, and retain the other bishop, came from the complaints that were lodged against me.

    However, on the day I was released, an elderly member came to my home and thanked me for being the first bishop in 20 years that he/she felt comfortable with in an interview, and that comfort had helped him/her off-load a burden he/she had carried for more than 2 decades. There is another member in the ward who has declared that he will always call me “bishop” because of the work I did with him.

    I, for one, would be less likely to ever correct the current bishop, even though I would have welcomed corrections myself. The job of a bishop, as has been amply described herein, is one not easy to carry. We who are faithful would do well to pat the bishop on the back and thank him for the work he does. And it wouldn’t hurt to give his wife a little squezze now and then either.

  40. A Past SP quoted one of the QofT during ward conference, saying that “everything we do in the church points toward the temple.” After the meeting, I went up and said, “I just wanted to let you know that I disagree with you and, I guess by extension, Brother Apostle. Everything points to Jesus. The temple points to Jesus. I think you got the end point wrong.”

    I wasn’t huffy or smart-aleck about it (surprise!). While he seemed taken aback for about three seconds, he then got really excited about the idea. “Why yes! Just like we don’t prepare for a temple marriage, but for an eternal marriage.”

    Just this month, I suggested to the bishop that it might be nice to hear from some women about the role of women as mothers on Mother’s Day. On Mother’s Day, both speakers were women.

    So, anyway, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to have conversations with people about our doctrinal understandings, and even to make suggestions about how to improve a meeting, even if we disagree with them or they with us, and even if they are above us in the hierarchy. My bishop is fond of saying that inspiration comes from all directions.

  41. Kaimi, having served in a bishopric, I can tell you that correction of the bishop takes place all the time. His counselors correct him, the HPGL, mission leader, elder’s quorum pres, relief society pres — everybody loves to correct the bishop. And every time it is done, it is usually done in the spirit of constructive dialogue, and bishops I have known are very open to it. Bishops know they aren’t perfect. They have a huge manual they have to memorize. Sometimes they just forget portions of the manual. I doubt very much that a private meeting with a bishop in which you remind him that he has forgotten rule X would be very welcome by every bishop. Sometimes the bishop will agree, sometimes not, but that’s his decision.

  42. Hmm, got me thinking about my bishop. Bishop Rast is extremely tender hearted. If my five-year-old were to correct him he would take it seriously and with deference.

    I can’t think of anything I’d complain about though. I’m sure if I think long enough I’ll find something. But I feel more protective of him than inclined to disagree with him.

    Anyway, guess I should think more before I post, as I don’t have much to say other than there are an awfully large number of bishops I’ve liked without complaints.

  43. #44 is a wonderful post! Seems more effective than a sermon on the topic.

  44. I gave a RS lesson once about this….supporting others in their callings. I pretty much said that everyone in the ward is a volunteer and isn’t perfect. When we do our own callings, we probably make mistakes. We have to assume that the primary teacher who did this with our kid, or the Bishop who didn’t do that, or the RS who asked us to do that, etc. are doing the best they can. The Lord called them knowing that they have strengths and weaknesses.
    My advice to those who have a particular calling and are frustrated with what they are asked to do-something that is not part of their calling or too much “help” from their superior is to realize that you have a calling for that particular calling. If someone asks you to do something, or not do something, you say “Yes” and do it….or you say “I’m sorry, as the ______ I don’t feel that is the way we should do it. This is my idea…..” etc. The person directly above you may be your boss, but he/she can only be effective if you are also being effective in your own sphere and calling.
    Rarely does something really have to be a problem.
    I don’t care if we have Sunday School opening exercises. I go with the flow (even when they moved SS into a too small room) because it is not my job to make those decisions. I do care if a Primary teacher lets my child out of class before I come to collect them…..therefore, I consider it my responsibility to get there before class is let out. I work with what people are there. These people are all volunteers with their own busy, stressful lives. They don’t need to go out of their way to make me happy. How cruel to treat them like a Dept. store that guarantees perfect merchandise, or a hotel that claims complete customer satisfaction. The “customer” is not “always right.”

  45. In my last calling I was assigned secret duties to look out for and care for a specific member of the ward that didn’t get along with the bishop. I was not to mention this aspect of my calling to the bishop. Who gave me this secret mission? The SP!

  46. This is a true story: We had a great and wonderful bishop, he worked himself to the bone for us and truly cared for us. I didn’t get along with him totally, we clashed on a specific issue, but I handled it quietly, while it probably troubles us both, it didn’t to my knowledge affect the ward. I had a lot of respect, gratitude, and admiration for him.

    He was–is a wonderful man. BUT, when he got released, all hell broke loose in our ward. I don’t know all the details, probably nobody knows the whole story, but several men thought they should be the bishop. Two went to the stake president about it to object to the person who was called. One man actually went to many homes to protest the new bishop, to tell people that he or somebody else should be the bishop.

    He quarreled with this bishop for a few months, then just transferred his memberhship, with the Stake President’s permission, if not blessing, to another ward, although he still lives in our boundaries.

    Our poor new bishop, a sweet and quiet man, suffered through those years, with people taking sides, several went with this man, and quit our ward. Most of us j ust quietly stood with our bishop and supported him. But it colored his years of serving, and gave him an added burden.

    The man who protested him is now the stake clerk. Our former bishop, who was one who didn’t support the new bishop, although he didn’t actively fight him, is a counselor in the presidency.

    I ask you, how is that man still a member of the church, let alone a stake officer? It bothers everybody in one way or another and has been a good lesson for us.

  47. I can understand your frustration, annegb, but all of us, including our leaders, have weaknesses. I think that the Lord calls us to certain callings because of our strengths, in spite of our weaknesses. I am not excusing people who fail to support others in their callings as they should, just saying that I try not to get overly concerned about administrative matters.

    In my career I have seen many leadership styles which are successful. I have seen successful leaders who were involved in every detail, and made the decisions themselves, and successful leaders who were collegial in style and involved everyone in decision making (I have a preference for the latter, particularly if I am not the leader!).
    I have seen successful leaders who were somewhat abrupt and occasionally offensive, and I have seen successful leaders who were diplomatic and smooth in their working relationships (once again, I have a preference for the latter). But as JKS pointed out above, we are all volunteers, and we all have our struggles. And we sometimes only know part of the story.

  48. When I was executive secretary I used to watch them almost cry trying to find bishops …

    Anyway, that was a long time ago.


    In my last calling I was assigned secret duties to look out for and care for a specific member of the ward that didn’t get along with the bishop. I was not to mention this aspect of my calling to the bishop. Who gave me this secret mission? The SP!

    Sounds like the time my dad was called to act as a counselor to a bishop who had a lot of issues. The bishops response was to schedule all bishopric meetings during the week on the day my dad had to work late. The SP eventually gave up and the ex-bishop has moved. sigh.

    You can only do what you can do, remembering we are all children.

  49. I’ve been a member of many wards in several countries and have thus been schooled at the feet of many bishops. To a man they were humble, hardworking, honest, and most of the time overwhelmed. I’ve never known one to complain, although I’m sure some do. They are, after all, only men.

    Years ago, one of this bishops somehow saw fit to call me (then age 26) to be one of his counselors. The average age of the ward was 72 (no, I’m not making this up). I gained a great appreciation for what a bishop, and his family, go through. Why someone (as mentioned in a previous comment) would ever seek to sit in that chair is beyond me.

    Are bishop’s fallible? Of course. Is it the place of a ward member to seek to ‘steady the ark’ in some form or fashion? No. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has a point of view. I personally think one can do more good seeking to ease a bishop’s burden by serving and magnifying one’s own calling – thereby giving that bishop one less thing to worry about. Doing that might give the bishop more time and energy to receive the inspiration you think he needs.:)

  50. “In the early 1980s, the First Presidency asked Bishops to tell their respective congregations that, among other things, oral sex was an unholy and impure practice.”

    This sounds apocryphal to me. I know that in the 70s Spencer W. Kimball said that it is not “anything goes” in the bedroom but also used the “between husband, wife, and the Lord” formulation.

  51. Cordeiro,

    I had a Bishop who, during a fifth sunday lesson, gave an awesome lesson about “steadying the ark”. If you remember the story, found in the Chronicles 13, the ark was falling so Uzza, who’s responsibility was to drive the oxen who carried the ark, put forth his hand to steady it and the Lord killed him instantly. The bishop made the point that this is the Lords church, he puts people where they need to be, we need to be concerned with our part as best as we can and He will take care of his part. Who knows what would have happened to the ark if Uzza had not tried to steady it, but it doesn’t matter, the Lord would see fit to take care of it the way it needed to be dealt. Although I am sure that this bishop had his share of people telling him how to do his job, but he didn’t share this in retaliation, rather to expound upon the all knowing nature of our Heavenly Father. He knows where his church is heading. He knows what this person or that will do. He will take action if he sees fit. We need not criticize our leaders and try to tell them how to do their job. Just do ours to the best of our ability and hope nobody wants to criticize us in how we do our part. If we are asked for suggestions, then perhaps we may give it, but one should stay his hand in attempting to steady that which is not his to steady.

  52. Cordeiro,

    That last one was supposed to start out saying, “good point”.

    Just wanted you to know that I agreed with you on what you said.

  53. “In the early 1980s, the First Presidency asked Bishops to tell their respective congregations that, among other things, oral sex was an unholy and impure practice.”

    This sounds apocryphal to me.

    Believe me, it’s not. To the best of my recollection, it was 1983. At least in our stake, the instruction was given in temple recommend interviews. I’ve never seen a Bishop so uncomfortable, before or since.

    Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed, and the direction was rescinded a few months later.

  54. Many years ago we had a bishop who claimed Halloween was of the devil. He would not allow any halloween party in the ward building or anything like unto it. We loved and supported the bishop. I guess that is when trunk halloween parties were invented, they were held all over the ward in member driveways (no bishop jurisdiction there) during his tenure.

  55. Well, I guess I am glad I wasn’t married and getting interviewed in 1982-83. If they bring this back, I might just have to settle for telestial glory after a thousand-year stint in hell.

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