Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How a Bishop SHOULD Behave

In September of 2007, the woman I had an affair with was called in to see our bishop. He confronted her with the feeling he had been having that she and I were involved. She confessed everything. Five hours later, as I was waiting for her to show up at my house to tell me how it had gone, she, her husband and my bishop knocked on my door. My husband was asleep at the time, as it was after midnight. Imagine my shock and fear as her husband, a man with terrible anger issues who had just found out about my relationship with his wife, stepped through my door and began pacing through my living room and kitchen area. The wife sat on the couch across from me, looking sad and desperate. My bishop sat next to me on the other couch and said something like:

"____________ told me all about your relationship. I know everything. I've been talking with her and her husband for several hours and she is willing to repent of her sins. I am here to call you to repentance. The sin that you have committed is terrible and you need to confess it and begin the repentance process."

Most of the time, my girlfriend's husband was pacing and fuming... I honestly think I saw smoke come out of his ears (rightfully so). When he wasn't pacing, he was sitting almost on top of my girlfriend and holding her hand tightly, in a possessive way. I felt ganged up on with the three of them in my house and the anger was boiling inside of me. I said to my bishop:

"If and when I feel that it's necessary to repent of my sins, I will contact you. I will not confess of my sins in front of an audience and it's wrong for you to ask me to. I would like for you all to leave now."

As they were walking out the front door, the husband turned around in a threatening way, with his finger pointing at my face and said:

"You need to do something for me. Tell your husband. You owe it to me!"

I slammed the door in his face. It's important to realize that he was my greatest friend at that point. It was not only a betrayal against his marriage, but it was a betrayal against our friendship. I understand his feelings, I do, I'm just trying to share the feelings that I had that night. Of course I was going to tell exH about my affair. I had already planned on it. At that point I woke him up and told him everything.

I am unable to adequately express the anger I felt that night and for more than a month later. I felt betrayed by my girlfriend for telling the bishop everything. I felt abandoned by her because she was in repentance mode, for we had planned to always be together. I felt betrayed by my bishop for entering my home and requiring me to confess and repent in front of my girlfriend and her husband. And as I slammed the door, I felt betrayed by my Heavenly Father because of my sexual orientation. I felt that I was in an impossible situation, one that I wouldn't be "healed" from, and one that would continue to cause loneliness and despair. The anger festered and I knew that I would never come back from it. I wrote an email to my bishop, expressing my disbelief in his actions. I wanted him to know how inappropriate it was for him to enter my home in that way.

Tonight I came across a hand written letter that I received from my bishop in response to my email. Please keep in mind that this man has always been a close family friend and his character is one of the best I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing. I want to share this letter in its entirety to show the vast difference between my two bishops, who have both tried to deal with similar situations.

"September 22, 2007

Sister __________

I am deeply sorry that I may have caused you any further stress or sorrow. My whole life is committed to helping people find happiness. I am sorry if you experienced any embarrassment or heartache because of the way that I chose to handle this situation.

As you have already guessed, I am not perfect. I wish I always could please people and handle every situation perfectly. You and __________ (your girlfriend) put me in a very difficult situation. For three months I have been feeling promptings that I dared not believe. At first I was in denial. I was having a hard time accepting these feelings that came from the Lord. The second month, I was hoping that either you or __________ would come and see me to deal with this. The third month my wife and I lost our baby boy and it took a while for me to deal with that. Finally, I had wrestled with the Lord long enough and I chose to talk to Sister ___________ first, because that is what the Lord told me to do.

I wasn't planning on spending five hours with Sister ____________. The spirit came upon me and filled my mouth with the words of God. As you have accused me of not knowing your heart, it is true and I wish to talk to you sometime. You don't know my heart. There was no intent to cause harm. I had no ill will towards you. I had no desire to cause you misery. My entire focus is to resolve a serious transgression that occurred. This sin can only lead you, ___________, and both of your families to the deepest misery that anyone can experience in this lifetime. Both of you would have lost everything. When I had talked to Sister __________ we determined that we had to tell you that night. I was worried that you might try to take your life. Originally, I was going to have Sister __________ do this on her own. Then I felt that she can no longer be alone with you so I decided to have her husband go with her. Then I was worried that he might do something he would regret so I decided I would go with them. It was not an easy decision. We prayed about it together. With Sister _________'s permission, I involved my two counselors and we prayed about it together and came to the decision that we go together.

I didn't ask you to come unto Christ to cause you embarrassment but to declare repentance. My intent of my heart is that you come unto Christ so that you might find happiness. I wasn't looking for a public confession but a commitment from you that you would eventually come see me. I realize that confession is between you and the Lord. I, as a bishop, have been given keys to be able to help you do this. At no time was I wanting a confession in front of __________ and her husband. I just wanted a commitment so that you wouldn't take your life but that you would come resolve this great evil.

As you know, this is very difficult for me. My heart is grieved! I love you and your family so much. I have prayed exceedingly that I might suffer with patience. I have walked the Garden and have experienced the depths of sorrow for you because I know of the great challenges you face and the terrible sorrow that comes with your sin. My whole desire of every part of my being is to help you come unto Christ to find perfect happiness. If you could know my heart you would see how much I love your family and you. How much I would love to see you find the happiness that you have been searching for. I have been praying and fasting for you that you might know the true intent of my heart.

My wife and I have always loved you and your family. I have been given the responsibility of being the Judge in Israel. It is not an easy thing. I would not be able to do this without the help of the Lord. I do know He talks to me and does guide me. Nothing can be hidden from His all seeing eye. It is not always easy to act on His will. I am trying to be in perfect alignment with Him. I have not judged you in the manner that you might have thought. I do see you as a beautiful daughter of Zion. You have been so kind and giving to so many people. You have been an angel to my wife and I. You have helped us through so many difficult challenges. You are always serving people. You are intelligent and funny. You are fun to be around. I see that you have so many great qualities about you. I know that this weakness can be overcome with the help of God. I see a great person, who has a small part of her that has fallen. The Lord will always be there for you to help lift you up. Do not let this small part of you overcome the rest of your exceptional qualities. I will always care for you and have the desire to help you in anyway that I can. My truest desire is to help you come unto Christ so that you may have real happiness. I will continue to be your friend and your bishop. I will be praying and fasting for you. I appreciate you and my tears have wet my pillow on your behalf.

As hard as things are this day, they will be less the following days if you choose to serve the Lord this day with all your heart.

Thanks, ____________"

Note the way he encouraged me to come and see him, even though it was confirmed to him by the woman I was having an affair with. He didn't chase me down and schedule a disciplinary council because of what he had heard. He told me the benefits of confession and repentance and then sat back and waited. Just over one month later, my heart had softened and I made an appointment with him. Having the ball in my court enabled me to figure out what I truly wanted and then I approached him. The anger was still there, but it was something I felt I was required to do. The process was much better because I wasn't forced into it, creating anger and resentment. It was my idea to face the consequences, and because of that my heart continued to grow closer to my Savior. Yes, he performed a "come to Jesus" in my home originally, but then this apology and a reverence for the process that I needed to move through on my own.

This bishop is not the only one I have counseled with over the years. I have also counseled with a few stake presidents. The topic has not always been homosexuality, but at times there were sins I believed needed to be confessed. I have never once, not in my almost 40 years, come across a bishop or stake president as ... (trying to find the words) ... cocky, arrogant, holier-than-thou, prideful, power-hungry, and hurtful as my current bishop and stake president. Their use of unrighteous dominion has hurt me to the core and I'm not sure how to recover from that.

I believe I'll send a copy of this letter to my current bishop, so that he can see how to properly call a member of his ward to repentance. Inviting one to come unto Christ is much different than slinging accusations, demanding answers and threatening excommunication. What is so wrong with being spiritual and loving, creating an atmosphere of safety and trust that would allow me to approach my leaders with a request for guidance? That is the way it should truly be. Anything less than that feels hateful and worldly and something other than spiritually-led.

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