The Flip Side of the Coin – Mormon Youth Bishop Interviews & Abuse

[ Cross-Posted from J. Max Wilson’s blog: Sixteen Small Stones ]

Recently critics and dissidents have been clamoring for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to abolish the common practice of having lay bishops hold private interviews with youth in which they ask them questions about sexual morality and the Law of Chastity.

Many of these critics are concerned about the propriety of having a bishop talk about sexual issues with young men and women alone as well as the potential for abuse. And they point to legitimately tragic anecdotes from people who feel that the practice had a negative effect on them as youth. Some even claim that it facilitated abuse by a bishop.

Earlier this year, the church announced that it would update its policies to optionally allow youth to have a parent attend the interview with them. The church provided bishops with standardized questions to be asked. And parents and youth were also to be given information about the kinds of questions and topics that would be included in the interview beforehand.

But the changes do not seem to have appeased the critics, who will not be satisfied until they have pressured the church to abolish the interviews completely and with them any enforcement of the Law of Chastity.

I just wanted to raise a point in support of the interviews that I have not seen made elsewhere, and that I hope the critics will seriously consider:

What about youth who are being sexually abused by their own parent?

A private interview with the bishop in which questions about sexual morality and the Law of Chastity will be raised poses a great risk to a parent who is sexually abusing their own child. It is an opportunity for the youth to reveal the abuse to the bishop without the abuser there to control the conversation. The bishop can be a trusted adult and authority figure that youth may feel can provide them help and safety from their own abusive parent. Sexually abusive parents must feel terrified that they will be exposed every time their son or daughter meets with the bishop alone.

Wouldn’t it be a shame if, in the name of protecting youth from abuse by bishops, we inadvertently undercut an important avenue for youth to potentially escape from abuse at home?

It is important to realize that these kinds of policy changes always include tradeoffs and unintended consequences. We should be circumspect and cautious and consider the potential drawbacks as well as the perceived benefits.

The vast majority of bishops in the church are good, honest, moral men who put in an immense amount of work to serve the people in their congregations without any compensation. They hold authority and priesthood keys that give them stewardship over the members of their wards and the right to oversee their spiritual welfare. They sometimes make mistakes. But they also often receive amazing inspiration and revelation to bless the lives of their ward members.

For every anecdote critics share about an inappropriate bishop’s interview, there are literally hundreds of others where bishops have helped young people repent from sin and find happiness in the gospel. And I suspect that for every story of an abusive bishop, there are others where a bishop has been instrumental in saving youth from an abusive situation at home.

We should take great care that in our zeal to pluck out the tares, we do not accidentally destroy the wheat too.

31 thoughts on “The Flip Side of the Coin – Mormon Youth Bishop Interviews & Abuse

  1. Excellent. I know when I was a teen, I would not have wanted my parents in any sort of interview. with me and the bishop.

    This whole issue has brought to light, and re-emphasized the need that we have as parents to teach our children about the Law of Chastity and perhaps how to deal with the world’s view of chastity vs. the Lord’s view of chastity, and how to navigate the mine field that is the 21st Century teen life. We have to teach our children how to care for and be good stewards of their bodies. We have to help them with the temptations they face. That communication more than anything else will help “protect” children.

    Thank you so much for this article J Max. I always love your perspective on issues.

  2. Excellent point. If there is no trusted adult to confide to about abuse from those who have unquestioned access, including family friends, neighbors, relatives and teachers, the young person lacks a lifeline. I had relatively good relationships with my teenaged children and some of them confided in me when boundaries of morality were threatened, but others were ashamed to come to me and confided in a bishop. I never pressed for confidences and was pleased that they had trust to resolve their issues with an appropriate authority. They might not have been as forthcoming in bishop interviews if I were present because they appeared to value my good opinion of them over the relief of appropriate confession.

  3. Idk. The church doesn’t have a terribly good historical record when it comes to believing kids over their priesthood bearing father. Just look at the case in AZ that has been in the news for one example.

    My guess is that things are much better now than back when she was abused with much more emphasis on believing the kids/woman. And hopefully such situations are outliers.

    At the same time, sexual abuse isn’t a worthiness issue, it’s a crime. Do bishops receive training in how to spot/assist victims?

    After many years working in non-lds youth programs that require annual youth protection training, I believe in mandatory two-deep adult /youth interactions. The church seems to be moving this direction as well, for which I am glad. And while I’m not a fan of stunts like staging a hunger strike, I’m glad we are at least having these conversations.

  4. Well said. As a former bishop, even when there were not serious abuse issues in a youth’s home, I had numerous interviews with youth where we came up with a game plan to strengthen the youth and improve the relationship with their parents. Many of these discussions would not have taken place if the parent had been present.

  5. I tend to agree that the track record of Bishops acting appropriately after learning of abuse is not great. In fact it seems pretty poor in general, which is not surprising IMO. Giving youth an opportunity to report abuse by parents is also not the purpose of the interview. And youth have other adults including teachers and youth leaders that they could report to. Honestly I think those options are better bets as far as appropriate action being taken, especially teachers. It seems like a strange and poor reason to advocate for continuing the status quo. Not that I’m necessarily against the church’s current policy re worthiness interviews. In practice though, I don’t think it’s rare for Bishops to behave inappropriately even though it’s not the norm. I would prefer to have it be the norm for parents to accompany younger children/youth for interviews.

  6. E,

    How in the world would you even know what the church’s track record is? Because of the nature of news media, we primarily only hear about the cases when it went badly. There are many instances when bishops have helped people escape abusive situations that are not publicized.

    The youth temple recommend interview includes the following question: “Is there anything in your conduct relating to members of your family that is not in harmony with the teachings of the Church?”

    My understanding is that that question is specifically about abuse and gives youth and adults an opportunity to bring it up. With this question the church is in fact creating regular opportunities for the subject to come up. So it _is_ in fact one of the purposes of the interview.

    Perhaps one can criticize the question as too vague. But it certainly demonstrates the church’s intention.

    The church is genuinely concerned about the physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being of the youth.

  7. I’m okay with interviews, but not for the reasons suggested here. A bishop’s interview should be solely for the good of the other party, not so that the bishop can search out the sins of others. The bishop is not an investigator or detective. He should receive my confession with interrogating it out of me. So a bishop should not interview a youth with a justification of getting the kid to rat on him- or herself or his or her parents. However, if a bishop conducts an interview according to our current teachings, and a youth volunteers information concerning another person’s crime, then the bishop should follow the mandatory reporting rules and let trained investigators do the questioning.

  8. The purpose of a bishops interview is also to determine if the individual is prepared to make certain covenants (such as at baptism), as well as to determine worthiness to enter sacred space (the temple). Where sin is involved that might disqualify the individual, it’s part of the bishop’s calling to understand those issues. That doesn’t mean he goes “hunting down” sin that isn’t expressed to him in the course of the interview questions (and that’s *never* been my experience in these situations–we need to be careful about generalizing singular incidents where, when they are alleged, we don’t know the actual truth, and certainly not the whole truth).

  9. Sin damages a person spiritually. Repentance is about healing that spiritual damage though Christ.

    Those who basically reject the spiritual dimension of it can only see social censure and punishment.

    A therapist can’t fix spiritual damage or give relief from sin.

    The bishop is a “Judge in Israel”. Sometimes that means withholding blessings like temple attendance or other participation. But the objective is to prevent further spiritual damage. Participating in church ordinances while living contrary to their very nature is spiritually damaging. The bishop’s objective is to help the person regain a spiritual state that is in harmony with the nature of church ordinances and covenants. And he is the judge of whether they are in that state or not.

  10. J. Why would a child being abused by a parent need to repent of a sin? I’m not following your logic.

  11. Lehcartj, my comment was supplementary to the ideas expressed by John M.

    Of course a child being abused by a parent doesn’t need to repent. They haven’t sinned.

    My comment was more of a tangent responding to the idea that youth who do fall into sexual sin do not need the bishop to ask them questions and instead need a therapist.

    Sorry if it was confusing.

  12. J. Max I’m not basing my observations exclusively on what gets reported in news media, but primarily on what I have observed. I really do think Bishops are not good at responding to abuse, not because they aren’t good people with good intentions, but because they don’t know how. The handful of situations I have personal knowledge of were not handled well. Reports I see in news media seem reliable and behavior described seems like what I would expect of most of the Bishops I have known. I don’t know of any instances where a Bishop was instrumental in protecting a child from abusive parents, do you? I doubt that changing interview policies would have any effect on likelihood of abused children getting help.

  13. I actually do know of a couple of instances of bishops helping children abused by their own parents.

    I also have heard of instances where a bishop didn’t handle it well.

    But I also expect that the instances where they did respond well and did help are much less likely to be public or publicized.

    I have found that those I know who have actually been abused in some manner by parents tend to recognize the value of allowing bishops to be able to meet privately with youth.

  14. We are far too quick to think well of others, and this extends right down to abusers. I’ve encountered too many instances where individuals (always less active in my experiences, although that’s obviously not always the case) are abusers or taking part in it somehow. It’s sickening an it effects all of society -several other instances of non members. We foolishly blind ourselves when we assume rampant sexual immorality and pornography have no ill effects because “consenting adults”. If you know anything about statistics and the distribution of human behavior at the ends of the spectrum you should recognize that we are not only enabling monsters but often shifting the morality distribution curve in a way that creates them. Mock away. But the tragedies will not get better as long as we bury our societal heads in the sand instead of heeding the Lord’s commandments.

  15. Some good points in the post and in the comments.

    Let’s allow that there have been some abusive situations or excessively intrusive questions. They are sad to contemplate. But what about the youth who are blessed by the loving concern of caring leaders? Do we throw that out?

    Sam Young’s supporters say that no other church interviews youth. Yes and no other church turns out youth who remain true to faith and morals like the LDS.

  16. What is an acceptable failure rate for bishop’s interviews? How would you explain to your child who encountered a bishop that didn’t follow the protocol ‘don’t worry, potentially dozens of other children had positive experiences’? Would that be ok to tell someone in a terrible accident, that it’s ok they were hurt because many others went unscathed?

  17. I think the concern with interviews is less that evil bishops are defiling the kids, and more that the sexually explicit questions are intrusive, and give to much opportunity for the Bishop to get into uncomfortable areas of discussion.

    Too often, (and in my case certainly), kids are not taught about the birds and the bees, or the law of chastity at home. And the church can be too vague about it so as not to embarrass anyone.

    The interview with a child xhould have exactly two questions about the law of chastity.
    1. Do you know what the law of chastity involves? Yes/No
    2. Do you follow it? Yes/No

    If no for 1, send them home for a discussion about the facts of life, and the church standards with their parents.
    If no for two, set up an appointment for later discussion. This interview should be short.

    There may be circumstances where this simple standard would not work so well, but it should be fine for most situations.

  18. I suspect that the new handbook (which is in production) will have more to say about how bishopric members are to conduct youth interviews, especially around issues of chastity.

    When I was a bishop, it was always fairly straightforward. You just ask them if they keep the law of chastity. They know what you are talking about and what they have been taught.

    Some confessed to various sins. Usually it involved pornography rather than any physical contact with another person. We focused on the Atonement, not on the details of the sin. I think it was a good experience for them, and for me.

    The Church certainly does place a large amount of trust in its bishops.

  19. Molly look at it this way. Suppose you had a warning sign posted on a highway showing a severe hazard ahead and a few people slowed down too abruptly to read the sign and were rear ended. So you decide to take the sign down because you decide that the only risk you are responsible for his is being rear ended. Inthe meantime Art drive down the road and encounter the hazard and are crushed by it.

    Every action comes with risks.

  20. Make no mistake, the real motivation behind this is two fold: 1) To try de-legitamize the law of Chasity 2) To drag the Church through the mud. These antagonists care not one farthing for repentance, sexual purity, or striving to live the commandments.

  21. If you had even bothered to read the stories at the PLDSC website long enough, you would see, over and over, that untrained, unskilled bishops unknowingly made the trauma of abuse worse. Some of them even knowingly made it worse.

    I have had 3 sets of abusers, all LDS. Only one of these folks was NOT in leadership. BUT… had the new policy been in place, I would have taken an adult of my choosing to meet with a higher authority than the abusive one.

    Nevertheless, if that ecclesiastical authority was untrained and unskilled, with or without another adult in the room, the abuses that occurred to me could still have happened. Especially if the other adult believed the teachings of the bishop and basically, switched sides, and joined him in attacking me. So the problem of victim shaming is only compounded.

    If my experience in the world of domestic abuse shelters and back out of it has taught me anything, it is that the Latter-day Saints are woefully ignorant of what constitutes abuse, what it looks like, the cycle of abuse, the types of abuse that there are, etc. What disturbs me in this discussion is the naivete and the outright condemnation of all the witnesses who have come forward.

    I searched, searched, searched to find what to do if I, as an LDS person, had an ecclesiastical leader exercising unrighteous dominion. I had to go all the way back to BRIGHAM to find anything that wasn’t a goosestepping blind mantra of follow the prophet. It was BRIGHAM who saved my testimony; who explained why evil exists in the church, and who decried and condemned it. It was BRIGHAM who told me what to do in this current LDS world of wheat and tares, wise virgins and foolish, bad and good fish in the Gospel Net. That is all I wanted. That is all that I needed. Not the constant denial that evil can’t possibly exist among us, or that if it does, it’s “rare.” Not to that victim, it isn’t.

  22. Thanks for your feedback, Katherine. You may be right that many members of the church are ignorant about abuse. However, I am not one of them. Unfortunately, various forms of abuse have happened in my family, both immediate and extended. And I am aware of the dynamics.

    My intention in my post was not to delegitimize the experiences of victims, such as yourself. You have suffered at the hands of unrighteous leaders.

    But just because your pain is legitimate doesn’t mean the remedy being proposed is the right one. It is complex and there are unintended consequences and trade-offs.

    I recognize, however, that the dynamics of abuse and authority make it difficult for victims to fight back against abusers.

    But the modern prophets have consistently condemned abuse. While we are taught to follow the prophet, and I have seen leaders teach that we should be patient with the weakness of our leaders, I have never seen any teaching of the authorities of the church that members should submit to wickedness or abuse from priesthood leaders.

    I hope that you can find peace and healing.

  23. I am a little puzzled that so many are claiming that Bishop’s interviews are the reason or one of the reasons for the relatively high level of religiosity of LDS youth (I am referring to the opinion expressed just recently in the Deseret News, in addition to several blog posts and comments). Has anyone completed a study that I am unaware of?

    Personally, I would list many other potential causes of religiosity or spirituality (active and effective parents, youth leaders, good friends, seminary, the Gospel is true and it works, etc.) before even thinking about Bishop’s interviews. An interview does not necessarily guarantee a connected, edifying relationship with a church leader.

    Three years ago, my daughter did have a horrific experience with a Bishop’s interview (today he would likely be released for his interrogation tactics by current standards). I discovered afterward that these were questioning practices common with many Bishops in my area which have since been dealt with by Salt Lake. So there was a very real problem in my area. When they new questions were announced, I took that as a policy responding to the needs in my area, not the criticisms of Mr. Young!

  24. Two more thoughts from me…

    In the four instances I know of personally where a Bishop got involved in an abusive situation (child or spousal), not one of them happened because a Bishop asked a question in an regularly scheduled interview. In two of them, the abused person went to the Bishop for help, which we absolutely want Bishops available to do. In the other two, other ward members saw a problem and made noises to the Bishop to get involved, which again we absolutely want Bishops to do (leading to, I hope, a Bishop calling the police where an actual crime is being committed).

    Makes me wonder how often is the regularly scheduled TR interview really the moment where someone comes out admitting abuse? I have a feeling the percentages are close to zero. Much more likely are the other scenarios I saw in action. Unless we know for sure that Bishop interviews themselves actually do reveal abuse, there’s no point in making the argument for keeping them for this reason.

    And then on the line between Bishop’s being spiritual counselor vs. therapist, I recognize that is a pretty hazy gray area. My personal experience was negative. As a sexually active teenager, I went through a repentance process with a truly wonderful, loving Bishop. I went on to check-off all the Mormon boxes (mission, Temple marriage, etc.). But then when I started to fall apart ten years later and started working with a therapist, one of the things she said almost at the very beginning was that my teenage sexual experiences were 10% sin, 90% emotional manipulation that bordered on rape. My bishop had totally missed that I was sexually active not because I wanted to be (I was a good LDS girl!), but because no one had ever taught it was okay to stand up for myself against a man and I met a guy who was happy to take advantage of that (therapist also said she’d seen way too many LDS girls go through the same thing).

    I forgive my Bishop for missing this as he was a good man and he had zero training as a therapist. At the same time, I spent years burying the emotional wreckage of my teenage years specifically because the Bishop had said I was forgiven. Thus in my head, all my continuing pain was my fault for not accepting the atonement enough. The therapist recognized this immediately. If I’d seen a therapist when I was 19 instead of my Bishop (and in all fairness, I probably would not have anyway), the therapist would likely have recognized all this back then.

    Anyway. I did deal with my issues. But I’ve warned my kids to only let a Bishop handle a person’s relationship with the church. Everything else needs to come from God himself (forgiveness) or a trained professional (therapist). Training matters (although I’d also be the first to admit that not all therapists are equal!).

  25. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lehcarjt.

    I think it is an oversimplification to draw some kind of line that says that it only counts if someone revealed the abuse in a regularly scheduled interview in response to a question. The regularly scheduled interview and questions build a relationship that allows a young person to come reveal abuse. The repeated opportunities to discuss potential sexual activity and abuse can cultivate the kind of relationship needed so that youth will tell their bishop. Why would a youth go to the bishop for help if they had never met with him before and knew that they could talk to him about those kinds of problems?

    I’m sorry for what you’ve been through and I’m sorry that your interaction with the bishop delayed you ability to heal. That is good feedback for the church. I agree with you that there is a great deal of sexual activity that comes about by manipulation.

    But I also think it is important to acknowledge that the notion that a girl shouldn’t stand up for herself against a man was never a teaching of the church. I can see how some people may have twisted teachings about authority and priesthood into that kind of idea, but that was a false application of a true principle. Others grew up in Mormon families where women standing up for themselves and disagreeing with priesthood holding men while still having an acceptable degree of respect for the priesthood was the norm. Blaming the church for a false cultural notion of not standing up to wicked men that may have built up in some families or areas is simply not fair.

    I’m glad you were able to eventually see a therapist who helped. But I think that you are creating a false dichotomy when you say “If I had seen a therapist instead of my bishop…”. It’s not either/or. You should have seen a therapist in addition to your bishop. And the Church is getting better at this all the time.

    I find your parenthetical aside that “in all fairness, [you] probably would not have [seen a therapist] anyway” interesting. There are probably a number of factors that would explain why you probably wouldn’t have gone, including cultural social stigmas. In addition to unfortunate social stigmas, therapists are costly. Paying for, or asking someone else to pay for a therapist is a barrier to going.

    Regular meetings with the bishop cost nothing. Because they are scheduled, they avoid the social stigma of only going when you have a problem. And the bishop can suggest therapy and help arrange for payment. So as I suggest that regular youth interviews with the bishop can actually help overcome common barriers to going to a therapist. Yet another reason why abolishing them completely would likely do more harm than good.

  26. I’m not for abolishing interviews entirely. I just believe deeply that for the safety of all involved 1 on 1 is not the way to go and Bishop’s should limit their assistance to fixing spiritual problems, not marriage/emotional, etc. (again, recognizing there isn’t a fixed line there).

    And just for clarifications sake… “The repeated opportunities to discuss potential sexual activity and abuse can cultivate the kind of relationship needed so that youth will tell their bishop.” This may be true in some situations, but my guess is that it’s not universally true. The relationship building doesn’t happen in the interviews. It happens in the regular activities, which is why our Bishopric has made a huge push to attend/be involved with our ward youth program. I don’t know if this is still true, but when I was a missionary, one of the key instruments of teaching was the BRT time (Building Relationships of Trust). Teaching came AFTER that was done, not as part of it.

    “But I also think it is important to acknowledge that the notion that a girl shouldn’t stand up for herself against a man was never a teaching of the church.”

    I absolutely agree. I would have agreed back when I was a teenager. The problem is that nowhere in my first 18 years did I ever see a woman standing up against a man or was I ever taught when/how to do this. This was especially true at church, where I regularly was getting lessons on ‘sustaining the priesthood’ and a ‘women’s role.’ Men sat on the stage, led things, gave guidance. Women sat in the pews, took instructions, and cared for babies. The biggest ‘scare’ in our ward was a woman who became a feminist and left her family to go back to school, selfishly refusing to submit to her priesthood leadership (mother of one of my friends even, years later it came out that the man was financially destroying the family.).

    So although we have always believed women have the right to stand up for themselves, we don’t ever have women actually doing it. I can’t think of a single time I ever saw it discussed, let alone modeled. I deeply, deeply internalized the message that taking any power for myself as a girl was selfish and unrighteous. I am so glad other women did not. I don’t blame the church for reinforcing this message in me. It was more lopsided-oversight than intentional and just part of the culture at the time. But my story isn’t uncommon and we can do better than this going forward.

  27. Lehcarjt, You say, “This may be true in some situations, but my guess is that it’s not universally true.” The same thing can be said for most of the points you have made. And that is why my original post emphasized that it is a complex issue with tradeoffs. But just because something is not universally true doesn’t mean that it isn’t widely true, good, and useful.

    In my case, my relationship with the bishop had little or nothing to do with activities. If anything, the activities pushed me away. It was interacting with the bishop in his capacity as a spiritual leader with authority that built my relationship and trust. So when you insist that “relationship building doesn’t happen in the interviews” I know that you are incorrect. It would be more accurate to say that for some youth, their relationship is built primarily through activities, and for others it is built through spiritual guidance like happens in interviews.

    The Building Relationships of Trust approaches that missionaries were taught is equally complex. General Authorities came to my mission and taught us that true relationships of trust are built when people feel the Holy Spirit with you. If activities in the church are correctly geared toward building faith and feeling the Spirit, then they will build the right kind of relationship. If they are only fun and build camaraderie, then they fall short.

    Youth need both opportunities to build camaraderie AND experience spiritual leadership and guidance. It isn;’t a linear progression from one to the other. It is a feedback loop in which each reinforces the other.

    I’m sorry that you never were taught or saw correct priesthood relationships modeled. I grew up in a family in which it was both discussed and modeled regularly. And my wife and I have raised our girls similarly. And I know many, many more who were raised in the church with similar experiences to mine. I also know of many like you who developed or were taught a false understanding. But, as you have noted, that false idea was never official. It was familial and cultural.

    Anyway, I appreciate your willingness to share your perspective and disagreements, and your effort to do so with civility. We can continue to disagree while identifying some shared ideas and goals.

    One last question. I’d like to understand why you think that the changes you favor (no one-on-one meetings between the bishop and youth, and no counsel regarding marriage/emotional/sexual struggles by the bishop) would have made a difference for your particular experience. Imagine that the policies you favor had been in place back when you were a youth with your situation. Can you describe how they would have resulted in a different outcome? Can you explain why?

    Thanks in advance.

  28. I started off thinking that moving of 1-1 meetings to 2-1 would not have made much a difference in my situation. I never had anything inappropriate happen. I see 2-1 as a basic protective measure because other people (some I know in person) have had bad experiences with too intrusive bishops. And then there are the horror stories of course too. It’s a safety/liability issue for me.

    As I think about it though, something else occurs to me. The first person I told that I had something I needed to take care of was the R.S. Pres, a fellow college student. She went with me to the Bishop’s and sat in the foyer. I kind of wonder if she’d been in the room if she might have recognized there was something wrong other than just the need to repent. She was a woman and closer to my age and situation. She was more likely to understand where I was coming from. Know way to know for sure of course. Maybe she wouldn’t have seen anything at all, although it is an interesting thought.

    I’ve thought a lot about what I would have liked the Bishop to have done, and here’s how it plays out for me: I go to the Bishop. I confess (crying, trembling, and freaking out because I’d never actually talked about the relationship issues out-loud before). The Bishop listens and asks me to do the two or three things to put myself right with the church (which he did). Then he’d say that he recognizes I’m really upset and that it would probably be a good thing for me to talk to a professional counselor at my university about the relationship I’d been in. Because sometimes while we look at the sex as the problem, the truth of the damage can be so much more, and a therapist would be the right person to work through that.

    And while I would never have gone to a therapist on my own (my family just didn’t do things like that), if he had encouraged me to go or made it part of my repentance process (my university had free services for students, making this doable. Not everyone has this option of course), I probably would have done so just because he told me to. Would that have made a difference in the years to come? Unknowable, of course.

  29. Lehcarjt and J Max, thank you both for this polite dialogue. I’m learning something here.

  30. Good conversation.

    All I want to add is that this problem of necessity connects to the idea that we’ve done a good job distributing priesthood authority, but not priesthood power. We’ve got a lot of ordained XYZs, but not an equal number of spiritual empowered XYZs.

    Priesthood authority relates to the efficacy of a Bishop’s keys with regard to his ministry. Power, while related, I’m linking more closely to not only being endowed with the power to perform the works of the spirit, but precisely being able to do them as a consequence of becoming like Christ.

    True priesthood leadership, therefore, is when the Bishop wouldn’t do anything different than what Christ would do. He can speak and know the mind and will of the Lord because of the disciple of Christ that the Bishop has already become.

    Substitute Bishop for any other office for that matter, although naturally the Bishop has specific authority related to his power.

    Clearly, we don’t have that happening enough. We ought to be very charitable when that’s the case, because it’s an impossibly high standard to maintain at all times (hence repentance), but I’ve known plenty of Bishops who have been very good stand-ins for Christ.

    I think the more we bombard Bishops with (or any other priesthood holder for that matter) the more likely they are just going to be making more decisions on their instinct. At times, that instinct is right in tune with the Lord’s desire anyway, as a result of their individual discipleship.

    But the more a person does things that reinforces all kinds of other worldy instincts, the less likely that truly Christlike ministry will be. Hope I expressed my thoughts well… It goes to show how important our every day choices are, which is why the Brethren have stressed it since the beginning of the restoration.

    Finally, I just want to connect this all back to the majesty of the gospel and the plan of salvation. What’s the point of all this stand-in for Christ and knowing how Christ would minister in a situation, personal worthiness, etc. Well the ultimate goal of training each of us to become like Christ, through our individual discipleship (in and out of callings) is that we can receive all that Christ has and all the Father has and become like them. Exaltation and Eternal Lives. It’s a wonderful connection of priesthood power and authority we don’t readily connect.

    We’re all learning on the job and pointing in the same direction though.

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