Meeting with the Bishop

My bishop asked me and my wife to come in and visit with him yesterday, so we went. He was just called as bishop a couple of weeks ago, so I didn’t really know what he wanted. My wife went in first, and she was in there a long time. She came out crying, holding a crumpled and wet tissue. I knew she would cry, as my unbelief has been unbelievably painful for her to deal with. All the while she was in the office, I knew what she would be talking about, and I knew it would hurt her, so I felt bad for putting her through that.

When it was my turn, the bishop asked me if I would be willing to accept a calling. It was a bit of a surprise, but I said it depended on what the calling was. Turns out they want us to volunteer one night a week helping migrant workers get health care. That I can do, no problem.

We talked about my family, my job, and whether or not we have health insurance (we do); apparently, the stake president wants to know who doesn’t have health insurance, for some reason.

Then he looked a little nervous and said, “I hope I’m not overstepping my bounds as bishop, but what can I do to help you get out to church more often.” I figured it was as good a time as ever, so I laid out my issues with the church in general and told him it was an issue of conscience for me. He asked if I had a temple recommend, and I said I didn’t. He asked if I would like one, so I told him that I would have to lie about having a testimony to get a temple recommend, and I wouldn’t feel right about that.

In the end, he said that he appreciated my integrity in standing up for what I believe in, and he said, “You can have a happy and productive family life without attending the temple.” I knew that, of course, but it was good to hear him say it. He gave me a hug and said he was glad we are in his ward and his neighborhood.

I’m glad we have a good bishop.

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14 Responses to Meeting with the Bishop

  1. erlybird says:

    As I tell my boys when a ball is thrown in the house…I can see the future.

    So…here is what is going to happen…

    This bishop went home after this interview and told his wife that sooner or later his “fellowship” of you, the fallen, will bring you around and one day, you will rise during F&T meeting, testimony regained, and turn to him and thank him with all your heart. He sees himself having succeeded where others have failed. Onward and upward…more anecdotes of the General Conference talks when he is called to the First Quorum of Seventy. But, when this does NOT come about, he will grow impatient, and require more “interviews” with you and your wife in which he will grow more and more cunning with her and less and less loving with you. Finally, instead of pointing out that you are able to have productive family life without attending the temple he will say something like, “Too bad it will all end when you die.” He will also cross the line with your wife and tell her that she has to finally make a choice…you or the Church.

    Remember, Mormons are really nice, except when they aren’t. Being really nice is how Mormons proves to others that the Church is true, except when it doesn’t work…then there is always that “dirt from the shoes” curse you can put on people.

    All I can say about it is that I hope your wife finally sees through it and joins you in rationality. There is really nothing to cry about.

  2. mattman says:

    I have to admit I’m a little shocked about this post. I’ll limit my commentary to 3 main points…

    First, I’ll register myself as a passenger in erlybird’s boat, but state it another way. IMO, this was plain a simple just a bishop’s version of a love bomb. That doesn’t mean that his intentions aren’t good, of course, but I have no doubt that’s what it is.

    Second, please don’t take my shock or this point as a judgment. My take on this would have been, ok, that’s something I could be passionate about and willing to do. However, on principle alone, I wouldn’t do it as an agent of the lds church. You, I, and your other reads know damn well the church will take the credit for it, and the people *you* help will be of the less fortunate, probably less educated type — which type is easily swayed by the love bombing, and thus vulnerable and ripe for missionary efforts.

    Third, it seems to me that this will be a very mixed message sent to your family about your stance on the church — the false hope that will ensue. I can see, however, a counter argument to that, so I won’t press the point very hard. 🙂

    Of course you know all of this because you actually served a mission, unlike me. So I’m curious what your motivations were behind this because whatever they are, I don’t think they’re readily apparent here. But that’s an element of what brings us readers coming back to your blog — the allure of mystery behind the man. 😉

  3. Eric Nielson says:

    It does sound like you have a good bishop.

  4. runtu says:

    I’m quite sure it was a “love bomb.” He said as much, telling me that he hoped that someday I’d resolve my issues and come back. But it was a pleasant surprise that he didn’t try to reconvert me.

    As for accepting the “calling,” a couple of things. First, I don’t actually have the calling, but he wanted to know if he could give our names to the stake. And, no, I really don’t have a problem doing it. I don’t mind doing good, even if it’s “tainted” by association with the LDS church. It’s the same reason I went to Louisiana and East Texas to help with the hurricane cleanup. Association with the church isn’t a good reason to turn down an opportunity to do something good.

    I don’t worry about my kids. They know where I stand in regards to the church. I don’t think doing this would in any way signal to them a change of heart or renewed belief.

  5. Stargazer says:

    Yes, it sounds like you have good, conscientious, and caring bishop. Thanks be that I will never be called upon to perform such duties. Although it might be fun to be runtu’s bishop.

    As to erlybird, dude, I would rather live my life believing there is a God, finding out there isn’t, than live it believing there isn’t and finding out there is. And if rationality is simply to throw in the towell and proclaim that you might as well stop running because you’ll only die tired, then screw rationality.

  6. Ray Agostini says:

    Take it easy, Runtu. I sense a precarious situation. Your wife in tears isn’t a good situation. I sincerely hope things work out for you, and that somehow all differences can be bridged by common bonds. Hopefully her tears were a sign of how lucky what a good man she has.

    I wouldn’t be as cynical as erlybird. While such motivations are very possible for a young, newly called bishop, he may yet turn out to be one of the best friends you ever had in the Church. That has been my personal experience. My strongest critics turned out to be among my best Mormon friends.

  7. Hey Runtu,

    Sounds like a mature meeting on both ends. I hope it bodes well for the future!

    -Chris

  8. That must have been very uncomfortable. I do appreciate their boldness too as the church does not usually post openings in the classified section. I am sure if God needs you – The Holy Spirit will contact you directly. 🙂

  9. erlybird says:

    Stargazer,

    Dude…I would rather live my life believing, rationally, that there is no God, living as well as anyone who DOES believe there IS a God only because they think that by doing so they are covering their bases. Besides, if there IS a God, and I stand before him, and he REJECTS me based not on how I LIVED but because I did not BELIEVE based in the INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE HE GAVE ME…and casts me out…then I will GLADLY GO…because however nice heaven might be it simply would SUCK being there with someone like HIM! I like to think I have learned how to pick my friends and those who I WORSHIP fairly well.

    And, Dude, I NEVER stop running and I PLAN on dying tired even if I honestly believe that’s when the lights goes out for good…anything else in just a bonus. Call THAT cynical!

    Runtu…anyone who makes my wife cry…is not a good person let alone a good Bishop. Ok, if she is still a believer and still needs to do worthiness interviews then fine, let her go. But if this guy wants to talk with you and your wife separately, and he is not a licensed counselor, then just for him to ASK to see her alone to talk about YOU is crossing the line.

  10. mattman says:

    runtu, I understand now, based on your followup comments. If you’re beyond the point of possible mixed messages, then good.

    As for the “taint” — I personally, at this stage of my life, wouldn’t be able to get over that. If I wanted to go help hurricane recovery, or under/un-insured less fortunate folks — I would look up a more trustworthy charitable organization. And by trustworthy, I mean one that makes it’s charitable bookkeeping records open.

    All that being said, the bishop sounded very un-ass-like, which is a welcome change to many stories out there. As more and more of the general membership become more and more reasonable, rather than the hard-nosers of the past, I think the lds church could become less and less of an evil force over time and simply pass back into obscurity, where it belongs. You know, like keep the volunteer spirit, but drop the dogmatic elitism. 🙂

  11. Stargazer,

    I would like to say amen to erlybird’s words. For some reason people seem to equate atheism with nihilism and defeatism. I work hard in my life to try to be the best person I possibly can. Just like erlybird, I will die very tired. The big difference is that instead of storing up treasures in heaven, I am working to store up treasures in this life. My treasures are friends, family, love, etc. These are all things I can enjoy in this life. I hope you can understand that rationality has nothing to do with throwing in the towel.

  12. Stargazer says:

    Michael, I responded as I did because of the cynicism and bitterness in erlybird’s comment. Most of the atheists I know are sterling individuals, and I do not judge based on atheism/theism, but on what I can see, which may be inadequate — certainly a single comment on a blog is not a lot.

    Did runtu’s wife cry because of what the bishop said to her, or because of feelings she has that came to the surface during the interview? erlybird assumes the tears were caused by the bishop, and that seems due to a deep cynicism about the church, when from all that I have read from runtu would suggest that her tears are hers, not the bishop’s. A cynic would want to thrash the bishop, not recognizing the true source of those tears. runtu knows from whence the tears flow — she cries because her dearest love on earth will be separated from her by death because of his unbelief. At least that is what she believes. You can cynicize your way out of it by insisting that she has no reason for grief because God is just a superstition and all that will left of us at death is a rotting corpse anyway, but that “rationality” will give no comfort.

    As to not believing because of “the INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE HE GAVE ME”? Well, there was never any promise that all would return with honor, because the journey was fraught with danger and individual decisions were to be respected. It doesn’t make me superior because I believe. But because I was willing to believe with insufficient evidence and act upon the belief I make myself perhaps eligible for a place of greater responsibility due to my greater utility as a willing servant. Note that the jury is still out on that one — as runtu has warned me in a past private conversation, I may yet land flat on my face, figuratively speaking.

    Insufficient evidence? The voice must be still and small in order to preserve free will — what, you want a Heavenly PA system blaring in your face? And even that would be insufficient for some.

    Nevertheless, I believe that even many atheists will yet be counted among the righteous who ascend to His glory, simply because He sees deeper into us than we even can ourselves and if what He finds pleases Him, well, who’s to gainsay Him?

  13. sideon says:

    Back into the lair of the beast?

    Cajones, amigo. Cajones.

    You’re gonna need a celestial (and leather) jockstrap if you keep that up.

  14. whatever says:

    What I don’t understand which nobody else mentioned, is why the bishop had to interview you individually. You’re a couple. You deal with things together. The fact that the bishop was singling your wife out, and the fact that she came out crying says a LOT. What an asshole, I say. I would never allow another man to talk to my wife in a manner that made her feel ashamed, guilty, or whatever the hell it was she came out of there feeling. I would have been angry beyond belief. I guess when people are in the Mormon church so long, they come to think they have to accept everything how it is. For all you know, he was in there groping your wife, and then threatening her to keep quiet because he’s a priesthood holder and she has to do what he says.

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